Friday, February 17, 2017

Nudes Are Old News at Playboy


Playboy's 1953 debut, with Marilyn Monroe.

Last month, Cory Jones, a top editor at Playboy, went to see its founder Hugh Hefner at the Playboy Mansion.
In a wood-paneled dining room, with Picasso and de Kooning prints on the walls, Mr. Jones nervously presented a radical suggestion: the magazine, a leader of the revolution that helped take sex in America from furtive to ubiquitous, should stop publishing images of naked women.
Mr. Hefner, now 89, but still listed as editor in chief, agreed. As part of a redesign that will be unveiled next March, the print edition of Playboy will still feature women in provocative poses. But they will no longer be fully nude.
Its executives admit that Playboy has been overtaken by the changes it pioneered. “That battle has been fought and won,” said Scott Flanders, the company’s chief executive. “You’re now one click away from every sex act imaginable for free. And so it’s just passé at this juncture.”
Continue reading the main story

For a generation of American men, reading Playboy was a cultural rite, an illicit thrill consumed by flashlight. Now every teenage boy has an Internet-connected phone instead. Pornographic magazines, even those as storied as Playboy, have lost their shock value, their commercial value and their cultural relevance.
Playboy’s circulation has dropped from 5.6 million in 1975 to about 800,000 now, according to the Alliance for Audited Media. Many of the magazines that followed it have disappeared. Though detailed figures are not kept for adult magazines, many of those that remain exist in severely diminished form, available mostly in specialist stores. Penthouse, perhaps the most famous Playboy competitor, responded to the threat from digital pornography by turning even more explicit. It never recovered.
Previous efforts to revamp Playboy, as recently as three years ago, have never quite stuck. And those who have accused it of exploiting women are unlikely to be assuaged by a modest cover-up. But, according to its own research, Playboy’s logo is one of the most recognizable in the world, along with those of Apple and Nike. This time, as the magazine seeks to compete with younger outlets like Vice, Mr. Flanders said, it sought to answer a key question: “if you take nudity out, what’s left?”

Playboy in Popular Culture

A look back at what made Playboy magazine and the lifestyle Hugh Hefner represented so prominent for decades.

It is difficult, in a media market that has been so fragmented by the web, to imagine the scope of Playboy’s influence at its peak. A judge once ruled that denying blind people a Braille version of it violated their First Amendment rights. It published stories by Margaret Atwood and Haruki Murakami among others, and its interviews have included Malcolm X, Vladimir Nabokov, Martin Luther King Jr. and Jimmy Carter, who admitted that he had lusted in his heart for women other than his wife. Madonna, Sharon Stone and Naomi Campbell posed for the magazine at the peak of their fame. Its best-selling issue, in November of 1972, sold more than seven million copies.
Even those who disliked it cared enough to pay attention — Gloria Steinem, the pioneering feminist, went undercover as a waitress, or Playboy Bunny, in one of Mr. Hefner’s spinoff clubs to write an exposé for Show Magazine in 1963.
When Mr. Hefner created the magazine, which featured Marilyn Monroe on its debut cover in 1953, he did so to please himself. “If you’re a man between the ages of 18 and 80, Playboy is meant for you,” he said in his first editor’s letter. “We enjoy mixing up cocktails and an hors d’oeuvre or two, putting a little mood music on the phonograph, and inviting in a female acquaintance for a quiet discussion on Picasso, Nietzsche, jazz, sex ...” He did not put a date on the cover of the first issue, in case Playboy did not make it to a second.
Mr. Hefner “just revolutionized the whole direction of how we live, of our lifestyles and the kind of sex you might have in America,” said Dian Hanson, author of a six-volume history of men’s magazines and an editor for Taschen. “But taking the nudity out of Playboy is going to leave what?”
The latest redesign, 62 years later, is more pragmatic. The magazine had already made some content safe for work, Mr. Flanders said, in order to be allowed on social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, vital sources of web traffic.
In August of last year, its website dispensed with nudity. As a result, Playboy executives said, the average age of its reader dropped from 47 to just over 30, and its web traffic jumped to about 16 million from about four million unique users per month.
The magazine will adopt a cleaner, more modern style, said Mr. Jones, who as chief content officer also oversees its website. There will still be a Playmate of the Month, but the pictures will be “PG-13” and less produced — more like the racier sections of Instagram. “A little more accessible, a little more intimate,” he said. It is not yet decided whether there will still be a centerfold.


Cory Jones, chief content officer of Playboy,  presented Mr. Hefner with the idea of eliminating nudity from the magazine last month. CreditNicole Bengiveno/The New York Times

Its sex columnist, Mr. Jones said, will be a “sex-positive female,” writing enthusiastically about sex. And Playboy will continue its tradition of investigative journalism, in-depth interviews and fiction. The target audience, Mr. Flanders said, is young men who live in cities. “The difference between us and Vice,” he said, “is that we’re going after the guy with a job.”
Some of the moves, like expanded coverage of liquor, are partly commercial, Mr. Flanders admitted; the magazine must please its core advertisers. And all the changes have been tested in focus groups with an eye toward attracting millennials — people between the ages of 18 and 30-something, highly coveted by publishers. The magazine will feature visual artists, with their work dotted through the pages, in part because research revealed that younger people are drawn to art.
The company now makes most of its money from licensing its ubiquitous brand and logo across the world — 40 percent of that business is in China even though the magazine is not available there — for bath products, fragrances, clothing, liquor and jewelry among other merchandise. Nudity in the magazine risks complaints from shoppers, and diminished distribution.
Playboy, which had gone public in 1971, was taken private again in 2011 by Mr. Hefner with Rizvi Traverse Management, an investment firm founded by Suhail Rizvi, a publicity-shy Silicon Valley investor, who has interests in Twitter, Square and Snapchat among others. The firm now owns over 60 percent. Mr. Hefner owns about 30 percent (some shares are held by Playboy management).
The magazine is profitable if money from licensed editions around the world is taken into account, Mr. Flanders said, but the United States edition loses about $3 million a year. He sees it, he said, as a marketing expense. “It is our Fifth Avenue storefront,” he said.
He and Mr. Jones feel that the magazine remains relevant, not least because the world has gradually adopted Mr. Hefner’s libertarian views on a variety of social issues. Asked whether Mr. Hefner’s views on women were the exception to that rule, Mr. Flanders responded that Mr. Hefner had “always celebrated the beauty of the female figure.”
“Don’t get me wrong,” Mr. Jones said of the decision to dispense with nudity, “12-year-old me is very disappointed in current me. But it’s the right thing to do.”

Animator Jimmy Simpson creates technology-inspired ident for MTV

Work / Animation

Animator Jimmy Simpson creates technology-inspired ident for MTV

New York-based animator Jimmy Simpson has created an ident for MTV that focuses on dated technology, desktop backgrounds and the history of the channel. “MTV’s goal was to create content that encouraged the visual experimentation they’ve always been known for. The only real guidelines was that it needed to revolve around the idea of technology and that it should land on their logo,” explains Jimmy.
“The first few days of the project were spent storyboarding a ton of ideas. Most of the were centred around techy stuffy like smart phones, 3D printing and online dating. At the same time, I was diving into compilations of all the amazing animation work MTV has commissioned over the year. It’s rare that you get to work with a client that has such a rich history in animation and I wanted to make something that referenced that,” Jimmy says.
The animator landed on the concept of taking the viewer through the different eras of MTV has been a part of. “Each landscape features different relics and references to the 80s, 90s and early 00s that MTV has outlived. The final scene reveals the old logo and updates it with a lightning strike. This is meant to show how MTV has been able to asap to different era over the last 36 years,” he explains.
The project took just over three weeks from storyboarding to final delivery, with most of the time being spent designing the shifting landscapes. The final environments are based on various desktop backgrounds in order to “tie the whole technology theme in”. The animation was created using a mix of techniques, for instance “the main character was drawn frame by fame while some of the background elements were created in 3D software.” The sound design is what really ties together the visuals, and this was created by Jimmy’s musician brother Vincent Simpson. “Two of the main references were Boring Angel by Oneohtrix Point Never and the monolith scene from 2001: A Space Odyssey,” says Jimmy. “I wanted the sounds to land somewhere between the two and I’m really happy with how things turned out.”
We featured Jimmy’s work last year for his animation of a Modern Love column for The New York Times. Here Jimmy adopts a completely different style but it’s something, the animator relishes when working on new projects. “Working in animation, each project feels like an opportunity to explore a new style or a variation of an old one. Animation timelines tend to be a bit longer than illustration job, so there is more time to develop something unique for that particular project,” explains Jimmy. “There are defining recurring styles and ideas I fall back on but I try to shift things for each project. For this particular one, I pulled from of a lot of surrealist artwork and posters from the 70s because I wanted the style to feel familiar.
Jimmy Simpson: MTV
Jimmy Simpson: MTV
Jimmy Simpson: MTV
Jimmy Simpson: MTV

Photographer Trent Davis Bailey documents rural American community The North Fork

Work / Photography

Photographer Trent Davis Bailey documents rural American community The North Fork

Photographer Trent Davis Bailey recently returned to the North Fork Valley of Colorado after two decades. He’d spent time at North Fork with his aunt and uncle as a child, but it wasn’t until 2011 that he returned to the rural town of Paonia. Since then, he has spent years living, working in and documenting the area and its people.
The tenderly observed, softly lit images in the series The North Fork document life in Paonia, a place where things aren’t always as they first appear. In one photo, a girl stands against a white wooden-walled building superimposed with the shadow of another girl playing on a swing, but the photographer’s own shadow is oddly absent. In another image, a heavily pregnant woman reclines on brown rocks in the clear water of a shallow pool, heavy curls of Pre-Raphaelite hair decorating her naked body. Fertility weaves through the series in pregnant bodies and depictions of farming in the rural community.
In March, Trent’s work will feature in group show Grow-Conserve at Somerset House.
Trent Davis Bailey: The North ForkTrent Davis Bailey: The North Fork
Trent Davis Bailey: The North Fork
Trent Davis Bailey: The North Fork
Trent Davis Bailey: The North Fork
Trent Davis Bailey: The North Fork
Trent Davis Bailey: The North Fork
Trent Davis Bailey: The North Fork
Trent Davis Bailey: The North Fork
Trent Davis Bailey: The North Fork
Trent Davis Bailey: The North Fork
Trent Davis Bailey: The North Fork
Trent Davis Bailey: The North Fork
Trent Davis Bailey: The North Fork