NEW YORK—Since it first hit newsstands, the February issue of Elle has reportedly held the publishing world in awe with its groundbreaking Marilyn Monroe–inspired photo spread, which has been hailed as yet another dazzling milestone in the career of visionary photo editor Allison Shields.
The powerfully original 12-page spread, in which the actress Amy Adams recreates several iconic photos of the late Hollywood starlet, has earned Shields lavish amounts of praise as a “creative genius” and an “artistic mastermind years ahead of her time,” sources confirmed Monday.
“Not only did she have the incredible vision to recreate the famous image of Marilyn holding down her dress over a New York City subway grate, but she also had the brilliance—the audacity, even—to put Amy in a dress identical to the one Marilyn was wearing,” said Elle senior editor Clara Buckingham, adding that the first time she saw the negatives she was “absolutely blown away.” “They did her hair and makeup the same and everything. It was amazing.”
“Taking a celebrity from today and dressing her up like a celebrity from a long time ago—how did she come up with that?” Buckingham continued. “On one level it’s an homage, but on another, deeper level it’s a commentary on how much things stay the same even as they change.”
According to Buckingham, the Adams photoshoot is only the latest example of Shields’s “truly ahead-of-the-curve photographic genius.” A feature last October in which comedian Jerry Seinfeld was dressed up as a clown and photographed at a deserted carnival similarly “oozed with originality,” she said, as did a July shoot in which Shields had the boy band One Direction reenact the Beatles’ Abbey Road album cover.
Last month, Shields triggered an eruption of positive buzz after shooting the bare-shouldered musician Pink as she bit into an apple, evoking the biblical figure of Eve in a collection of images that industry sources said solidified the 42-year-old’s reputation as one of the most forward-thinking and wildly unpredictable photo editors in American fashion today.
“It takes an out-of-the-box thinker like Allison to stumble upon the idea of reaching to the past for inspiration,” said managing editor Corrie Ross, who admitted she gets chills whenever Shields has photos digitally aged to resemble the originals that inspired them. “You see her work and you think, ‘Wow, I wish I’d thought of that.’ But of course you or I never could have. That’s what makes her such a genius.”
“And now she’s outdone herself yet again,” Ross added. “I guess that’s why we pay her $400,000 a year.”
Colleagues said Shields’s creative mastery lies in her ability to challenge her audience’s expectations, whether by photographing the cast of Girls as debauched Jazz Age flappers, or unexpectedly switching genres and shooting Seth Rogen, Jonah Hill, and Danny McBride as Shakespearean thespians in ruffled collars and tights.
All her contemporaries can do, observers noted, is sit back and look on with dropped jaws.
“The wealth of ideas this woman has in her head when it comes to choosing subjects and settings is something no one else can match,” Buckingham said. “Like magic, she’ll snap her fingers and say, ‘Let’s dress [Gov.] Chris Christie as George Washington and have him lead a boat across the Delaware,’ or ‘How about we go to Yahoo and shoot [CEO] Marissa Mayer as Jackie O?’”
At press time, reports confirmed the magazine industry had been bowled over once again after Shields oversaw a photoshoot of comedian Russell Brand wearing a suit and tie above the waist but just boxers below.