Is Brooklyn Beckham’s Name All He Needs to Succeed?
David and Victoria Beckham’s eldest has 5 million followers on Instagram, and has sailed into a top fashion photography job. Is his success deserved, or too early?
Although described by people who know the family as ‘not brattish’, Brooklyn undoubtedly lives a life of extraordinary privilege. He is accompanied by security guards at all times in public, counts Madonna’s boy Rocco Ritchie as a close mate and has cooking lessons from his pal Jack Ramsay’s dad, Gordon. The foulmouthed chef has apparently taught him how to make a mean beef Wellington.
Fame doesn’t work well for all kids, but it seems to suit Brooklyn. He could be described as untroubled by self-doubt, even if the confidence at times appears to occasionally acquire a rather alienating patina of arrogance.
In a recent video he made for Teen Vogue, for example, Brooklyn, who turns 17 in March and attends school in London, presented a convincing portrait of a typical, know-it-all, pleased with himself teen, as he fussed with his hair and posed for the camera.
Watch a few minutes of it, and it’s hard to avoid the impression that Brooklyn Beckham thinks Brooklyn Beckham’s the best thing since sliced bread.
Many of us were like this as teenagers, of course, but the difference is we weren’t growing up in the daily gaze of 5 million fans.
Ah yes, those 5 million fans. As many commentators have been quick to point out, it’s Brooklyn’s truly extraordinary social media skills rather than his photographic ones that have actually landed him this gig. (“Thirty years of experience, or millions of Instagram followers? No contest,” wrote Jess Cartner-Morley in the Guardian.)
Brooklyn was clearly delighted to get offered the job, as his posts over recent days have made clear, but there were predictable and very understandable howls of outrage from the brotherhood of professional photographers, who dismissed the move as ‘pure nepotism’ and a clever marketing stunt.
The shoot itself—which took place on Saturday and Sunday—was streamed on Instagram and Snapchat.
Predictably, the comments rapidly descended into a slanging match about whether or not it was appropriate for David and Victoria Beckham’s sprog to be handed the new Burberry campaign on an artfully checkered plate.
“I can’t even handle the amount of anger this gives me,” one professional photographer wrote. “I’ve fought, struggled and worked for what I’ve achieved while he’s handed what would be a dream job for me.”
Well, that’s not Brooklyn’s problem, is it? Indeed, once the shoot, which took place in a skate park, had finished, Brooklyn, with his hair tied in his signature top knot man bun, took to his board to burn a few moves, images which were also shared on the Burberry account.
Christopher Bailey, Burberry’s creative head, has defended his new snapper against the haters, insisting that Brooklyn has a ‘good eye for image,’ adding, “Instagram works brilliantly for him as a platform to showcase his work. His style and attitude were exactly what we wanted to capture the spirit of this new fragrance campaign.”
One of the pictures, which showed the model Maddie Demaine, attracted 194,000 likes from Brooklyn’s 5 million followers, which, perhaps more honestly than Bailey did, answers the question of why Burberry would appoint a kid with no professional experience to shoot their campaign.
The shoot was damned with faint praise by professional photographers in off-the-record conversations with the Royalist.
“It’s simple, point and shoot,” said one of the Maddie Demaine image. “It’s a nice shot and it has also been nicely re-touched: it’s satisfying, pleasant and totally unobtrusive. There’s no style, no genre. He’s just pushed the button and recorded it.”
Said another, “Photographers used to have specific tools, some liked a Pentax, some used a Canon, some used long lenses, some used fisheye, and they liked specific film—Agfa, Ilford, whatever. When you put those elements together, you got their style.
“Digital, especially camera phones, totally homogenize everything. And people realized, ‘Actually, taking pictures is quite easy.’ So the natural progression of this is that you get a famous 16-year-old, plug him in to the computer, have the art director standing behind him doing the lights and saying ‘Let’s try a full length,’ and it looks nice. Tech know-how is no longer essential to get the job done.
“Scrape away everything and what Brooklyn really brings is access. He can get a picture of Elton John because he’s his godfather.”
Another person in the industry said, “There are loads of people in the business trading off their parents’ names to get access. It’s just the way it is and ultimately, we photographers just have to man up and do the job better than these little fuckers. Theo Wenner is the son Jan Wenner so he gets all the musicians. Matt Jones and Kate Jones—their dad is Terry Jones, who set up i-D magazine. Their work is fine. Just fine.
“Brooklyn ultimately will just become another one of them, unless he is prepared to do an apprenticeship. He’ll become a himbo.”
Some fashion editors have questioned the tactical wisdom of using the kind of digital shots that Brooklyn has produced.
“There’s a big move back to analog photography,” said one. “The shots they are getting from Brooklyn are actually quite off-trend and old-fashioned. But when you dig down into the Burberry DNA, you realize that Mario’s actually been taking this kind of shiny stuff for them for years, so it’s a natural progression.”
Personally, I can’t help feeling that the attraction of David and Victoria was that in an age when cipher-celebrity was first beginning to rear its vapid head, they were genuinely talented people.
Beckham was arguably the best England captain for a generation, and certainly the best at taking free-kicks.
Victoria, together with the Spice Girls, altered the path of pop music, and then went on to prove herself a talented designer of women’s clothes with her own line, much to the stunned disbelief of the fashion world.
So it seems odd, and out of character, that they would encourage Brooklyn to accept spoon-fed opportunities. But then again, they did let his younger brother Romeo pose for the Burberry Christmas card.
Several commentators have leapt to Brooklyn’s defense, including Victoria’s unofficial biographer, Sean Smith.
Smith told The Daily Beast by email: “The critics had a great go at Victoria for daring to branch out into the world of fashion design. Once more, she has had to work her socks off to be taken seriously.”
Smith added, “Of course the important concept in the work of the Beckhams is the brand. Every mention of a Beckham in the media is a plug for the brand so they all benefit. It’s the fundamental ethos behind building a brand—something the Kardashians are masters of. Brooklyn, Romeo et al are building the dynasty.”