Another serving of FRONT is upon us thankfully, and it means another review from yours truly. I’m beginning this piece with the view to curtailing it slightly, following last months mammoth critique. No doubt I’ll fail at this attempt as I somehow always find things to say about the wonderful world of FRONT magazine, but I’ll give it a shot.
An ominous issue this month, with the news Alex Sim-Wise is leaving the team. For some reason I flashed back to the changes FRONT implemented a few months ago, where there was a backlash following the departure of the then editor to FHM. With Sim-Wise now leaving, I fear for the future and how FRONT will fill such a massive gap. I’ve never commented on Alex’s work in my previous reviews on this blog, I’ve always found her contributions beyond reproach, and commenting on a commentator never really seemed warranted. But I’ve always enjoyed the Wise ones two pages, and I don’t envy whatever tries to replace this hilarious howitzer of hyperactivity. More next week on Sim-Wise when she wows us with a farewell shoot. It’s disappointing her feature has waited till she’s on her way out the door, but I’m really looking forward to it.
Back to the front of 168 now, and the cover stars are Kitty and Gabrielle. Firstly I have to say, when tattoos are visible on a FRONT cover, it’s usually a sign of good things to come. Gabrielle has some stunning work on her body, and her pieces draw attention straight away! I also loved the green of the background, and it really played well with the weather in the UK at the time of release. The water-balloons and the summery feel reminded me of Seren Gibson’s wet t-shirt shoot from a few years back. However, I do have a few issues with the configuration of the cover shot. It’s a bit of a bugbear for me when FRONT integrates photography with graphics/cartoons. It has to be done incredibly well for it to work, and I don’t think this cover achieves that. The models look amazing, Gabrielle’s scorching blue-eyed look over the shoulder is perfection, and Kitty’s stare screams menace, as she supposedly readies a balloon of water to hurl at our heads. But when you look at the water-balloons they’re just stuck on the cover, and are easily mistaken for text bubbles. They don’t marry with the image at all, and believability goes out the window. With this in mind, we’re left looking at two beautiful women, holding their hands unnaturally; Gabrielle with a claw curled around her back, and Kitty standing there like she’s about to summon a Ryu style Hadouken. It’s a shame, and took a little edge off the cover for me.
Inside we move on to the letters page, and a shameless plug for content coming up on this very blog :) Rebecca Bone’s immense appearance in issue 166 was heralded by Jamie Rowson. There was nothing of note about Jamie’s letter, I just wanted to mention Rebecca is coming on the blog soon, and her showing in 166 always deserves praise :) Moving on…
Page 14 begins the “Full Frontal” section, and introduces Ryonen. I must admit at first glance I was taken aback by just how young Ryonen looks, something I’m sure she gets all the time. That’s why I think FRONT has included her age in the intro line. With reassurances it was ok to admire this lady, I continued my enjoyment. It’s in the Full Frontal where experimental shots are welcomed it seems, here we get a very mood rich set from photographer Chase Lisbon. The choices made by the photographer do obscure my appreciation somewhat I must admit. I understand it’s a stylistic choice, but it’s a massive departure for a FRONT shoot. It took me back to my Media Studies days and the technique of Chiaroscuro implicit in many film noir pieces. The OTT shadowing all adds to the feeling I got that this shoot was a bit of a tie-in with page 24’s blurb about the photographer’s new movie “We Must Remain the Wildhearted Outsiders.” A feeling that left me a little uneasy and detracted for the experience slightly. Don’t get me wrong, Ryonen is stunning, and her work on pages 18 and 19 in particular is impressive. I love how her body tells one story on page 18, while her eyes tell a completely different one. Her cascading hair over her breasts is simply perfect, and throughout the shoot Ryonen is sporting such cute underwear, that peeks from the page. Page 19 is my favourite shot, she’s not looking into camera, but you want her to. Sporting a divine nose stud, her face is serene and ethereal. Her shimmering skin is in contrast to her magnificent bust, which is squirreled away under her hair and the shadows of the shot. I’d love to see Ryonen back in FRONT in the future, she’s got such an interesting look, and her eyes are magic. I just feel this issue was not about her, and there was a self-indulgent tinge to Chase Lisbon’s use of this set.
Page 30 is my next stop and an honourable mention for Hannah Snowdon’s contribution. I loved the personality of her pictures, and the examples of her work on display are sharp and multifaceted. Her brief interview was entertaining, and I shall “watch this face” as the article suggests. Well found FRONT.
Alt Girl time now, and this month she’s called Keshia. I really enjoyed Keshia’s showing for a number of reasons. Firstly, and obviously, she’s a very attractive lady, who knows what she’s doing in front of the camera, and who knows what the FRONT readership and the Alt Girl section is all about. Also, in contrast to the “Full Frontal” section’s shoot, these photographs are full of energy and colour! They gave me a little jolt as I was looking through them, and kind of perked me up for the rest of the issue. Keshia’s first shot on 54 is a nice intro to her feature, there’s a shyness to her stance that works well, her gaze is down, and the expression on her face is one of preparation, gearing up for the striptease that follows. Page 55 is all about Keshia’s eyes, the top image is the reader’s first introduction to them, and we’re met with multicoloured pools of amazement :) In all three pictures on 54 I was immediately drawn to her eyes. They really tell a tale, drawing you in more and more before she glances away in the last shot and pulls down her bra with a nonchalant thumb. These three photos are a delight, colours from every angle; her eyes, leggings, bed spread, even her spreaders are vibrant! The three pictures seem in a constant state of movement, and it’s a very alive collection of imagery.
Keshia amps thing up incredibly on page 56 and 57 with a real bevy of photographs that have so much going on, and stand out individually. It was bitter sweet for this reader as I knew Keshia’s set was coming to an end, but what an end, and surly a good endorsement for a future reappearance. The first picture on page 56 is a poster waiting to be printed in my opinion. I love this image, and I think it’s my favourite from the shoot, but it’s hard to choose really. Keshia back to camera in the process of seemingly removing her underwear, it’s not a gratuitous shot by any means, but it’s sexy as hell, and the lighting, positioning and look off to the side of shot all add to the perfect storming image! In the top left hand corner of 56 is another exuberant picture of Keshia, and another of my favourites. We get a glimpse into her personality here, and the playful use of the bra along with her expression entertains. It’s a hard thing to get across in shoots like this, but Keshia manages it wonderfully. At the bottom of 56 and 57 is a classic glamour pose, but I mostly enjoyed the introduction of Keshia’s tattoos. They’re always a nice surprise when you can’t see designs from the outset, and they’re cute choices, with the lock motif on her right arm adding to the rainbow of colours that Keshia’s shoot absolutely was. A very good showing in my opinion, and I’ll be sending her my congrats for sure.
The Alt Girl DIY section was a mixed bag again this week, it definitely seems as though some sort of filter has been taken off the submissions. There are some tan-tastic and pouty entries, but also some interesting discoveries that I’d love to see more from. Page 59 has a trio of ladies that intrigue; Sophie Smith, Amanda Rourke and Gemma Webblewhite provide some good pictures. I could have seen Michelle Alexander making the move to Alt Girl proper if she wasn’t based in the states, but I think consideration should be given to Dawn Stone and Evangeline from the margin on page 61.
Summer is indeed here as the caption says on pages 82 and 83, and we’re greeted by a very sunny looking Gabrielle. She’s looking terrific bathed in sunshine and beautiful ink, along with a cheeky smile that is the epitome of coquettish charm. There are some gorgeous photographs of Gabrielle in this shoot, and I think FRONT need to pull back on the throttle on the double feature main shoots. One model always seems to steal the show, and Gabrielle certainly does that here. Right away I had my favourite shot from this set, on page 84 Gabrielle sits on a staircase toes a-pointing, legs a-kimbo, and comic expression working well. I’ll most certainly be framing this page n the future for display, it’s so fun, and sexy at the same time. Adjacent to that shot on page 85 we see Kitty and this is my favourite shot of hers from this issue. Standing in a drenched Fred Perry polo shirt, it’s an interesting image, and her almost blasé expression works so well. The picture screams “Yeah I got wet, but I still look fucking awesome!” It’s am impressive vision of a kick-ass lady, and there’s an air of the iconic about it. Maybe I’m harkening back to This is England-esque styling, but I like it.
Gabrielle is in the bath on page 88, and looking very mischievous indeed, her expression is one of playful menace, and it’s so cool. She’s in a bath of balloons, which is the only time the balloon motif from the cover is used in the shoot. For me it just goes to reiterate a point, and means FRONT could have scrapped the cartoon balloons on the cover and just utilised the models on their own, no visual aids were needed. Moving on to pages 90 and 91, again Gabrielle is featured, this time in a gorgeous shot that spans two pages, the use of light here is terrific, Gabrielle’s wonderful pert bosom is highlighted in the sun, along with her dazzling chest piece. Your eyes follow the arch of her back down towards her posterior, and her chosen pose is somewhat echoed by the mermaid tattoo along her side. I enjoy everything about this shot, the placement of her hands on the sofa’s arm, the twist of her upper body to reveal gorgeous artwork to camera. A far away gaze is useful here too, it adds a little poise to the photo, and heightens an angelic quality that’s created with the light.
Page 92 is an explosion of a picture, and also a hive of energy and colour. Gabrielle throwing open her top and revealing perfect boobs, the yellow of her garment picked up by the yellow blossoms on the tree in the background. There’s something about her face in this picture that reminded me of Rachy, FRONT forum aficionado, and all around gorgeous lady. It’s a very fun shot indeed. On 93 conversely, the fun and energy has switched to a more restful state, catching some rays, Gabrielle and Kitty seen from above, lie on the ground quite peacefully. Kitty is the rare focus of this shot, and her elongated torso is wonderfully shown off, while the story of the shoot winds down with this visage of two exhausted models.
The final image sees Gabrielle once again the focus of a double page spread, and there’s a message that even at rest, this woman is fabulously sexy. In the failing light of the afternoon, she lies on her back, with a twist to her hips and arms splayed to the sides. She’s wearing some knockout suspenders that suit her colouring and styling to a tee. Her positioning is that of a model who knows what she’s doing, and how to perfectly showcase herself in the confines of a tight space on the floor.
All in all this issue of FRONT had a tad more disappointments than it did successes. Keshia’s set was a highlight for me no doubt, and Gabrielle and Kitty provided some amazing shots. But all in all I think the news of Sim-Wise leaving began the issue on a bit of a downer, and the worry of what will replace her didn’t help. I enjoyed the main feature photo shoot but again, I think FRONT should stick to solo shoots from now on to save models jockeying for attention. It invariably leads to one model standing out and commanding more page time, and the other becoming somewhat of an afterthought. I guess we’ll see what next issue has in store for us, and I hope FRONT are going to pull it out of the bag with some new features, and I can’t wait to see Sim-Wise in action.
I don’t think I kept to my aim of curtailing this piece any, but I’ve enjoyed commenting, and I hope if you read this far, you had a good time too. These are just opinions, and I always welcome different viewpoints.