This is Radhika Jones’s first Hollywood Issue cover and lo and behold, it’s pretty good. (If you want to see it bigger, just click on the picture.) Instead of going for the classic Annie Leibovitz shot, VF tells us that “three-time Academy Award-winning cinematographer Emmanuel ‘Chivo’ Lubezki created [the] cover and accompanying portfolio with a camera that captured his subjects in full, diamond-sharp motion and then edited them into the images you see [on their website].” You should definitely click through — the shots are really, really beautiful. It’s interesting to me that they clearly went for the same feel as the Leibovitz covers, but without her behind the camera. I’m sure part of that is branding — this particular cover is sort of the quintessential Vanity Fair issue and I can see why they wouldn’t want to totally tonally shift for the first outing without Graydon Carter, but might at the same time want a new eye (especially since Annie’s recent work has been a little wonky). Personally think these photos are better than what we’d seen over the last several years; for one thing, everyone has the correct number of limbs in the right spots, and no one looks like they’ve been Photoshopped in (or out) at the last minute. It’s also the most diverse Hollywood Issue they’ve ever done, though I do wish Regina King had gotten the first fold of the cover; I actually think the second shot — with King, Rami Malek, Yalitza Aparicio, and Nicholas Hoult — is the best photo, but I also suspect they’re banking on Chadwick and Timotheeeee to draw more casual VF readers into picking up this issue when they see it at the market.
Now that I think about it, it actually makes sense to have the Hollywood issue photographed by a cinematographer and I am sort of surprised they haven’t done that before, to my memory. Lubezki’s CV is pretty amazing — he works with Alfonso Cuarón and Terrence Malick often, but he also shot Reality Bites. He won the Oscar three years in a row, from Gravity, Birdman, and The Revenant. Overall, this feels pretty thoughtful while still being fairly traditional — which is a hard line to walk.