Our March issue features David Beckham on the cover and looks at defining historical and modern icons through the lens.
What goes into creating an icon? Our latest issue scrutinises the muses, photographers and designers that go into creating unmistakable images that speak to the culture of the time – from early 20th century Soviet agitprop to a working-class lad from east London who somehow became one of the most recognisable faces on the planet.
“He makes it look so simple…but believe me, it is not.” – Graham Taylor
“He is such a big celebrity, football is only a small part.” – Sir Alex Ferguson
“It is rare a man can be that tough on the field and also have his own line of underwear.” – President Barack Obama
For most figures of popular culture, the acute gaze of the lens is part of the job – to be captured for public consumption, to create a personal iconography that relates to your art. We expect our musicians, our artists and our actors to transform themselves, we demand a visual flair. But from a midfielder from Leytonstone? Not likely. And yet, with his tattoos, his hairstyles and his long sleeves, David Beckham has become one of only a handful of truly international icons – instantly recognisable and universally adored from Oslo to Osaka.
“After the royals, the Beckhams are Britain’s most recognisable family, with a global pulling power that’s almost second to none,” says Anton Dominique of the London School of Marketing, who estimates their worth at just under half a billion pounds.
Ahead of David Beckham: The Man, a three-year world-touring exhibition and philanthropic programme instigated by Positive View, Rob Alderson investigates his rise, from the working-class London lad who announced his arrival with the graceful swoon of his right foot at Selhurst Park two decades ago, to the sex symbol and global ambassador for Unicef he is today. In particular, he focuses on the part photography has played in this journey. As Kathy Adler, curator of ‘the exhibition and former Director of Education at the National Gallery writes, “the photographs constitute a narrative of Beckham’s life and of the position he occupies in contemporary culture.”