Only Human: How Sisters Sarah J. & Sally A. Edwards Disarm Performers To Create Intimate Art Portraits
“Our approach is ‘BLAG’. It’s not just the name of a magazine, it’s our whole ethos; something that naturally came about when we first started,” says Sarah J. Edwards, one half of the dynamic force behind the images that gave BLAG its cult following. This is a rarity. Not just the ability of two young women to build a magazine from scratch, that rivals leaders in the publishing industry, but the ability to offer a point of view unseen elsewhere. Because, as we all know, there’s a transaction that takes place when a glossy features a celebrity: the celebrity gets to promote whatever series, album, tour, tequila, book or bodywear range they’re putting their name to, and the magazine gets to sell copies by making the celebrity the subject of highly elaborate imagery. Then along came Sarah and Sally, bucking the system and stripping it all back.
Obviously, the practice of the big glossy spread had to change anyway, now that people consume a large slice of their pop culture online, and publications need to keep pace with how to exclus-ify — and therefore, monetise — the digital dissemination of information. But what hasn’t been updated, is the propensity for publications to feature celebs in the same old ways: a sycophantic tribute that focuses on the virtue of a subject that really doesn’t need to be elevated to sainthood, because they’re already rich and famous enough as it is; an investigative piece that devotes too much time and energy trying to unearth things that aren’t there in a bid to provide a new angle while furthering the publications agenda of appearing hard-hitting; or a story where the reporter does some sort of activity in parallel with the person being interviewed (golf anyone?), so they can cast their opinion of them after knowing them only a day or two.
This is the antithesis of what British twin sisters, Sarah J. and Sally A. Edwards, achieve in their intimate and up-close portraiture of global performers. And that’s because they’re insiders. “We met some very well-known grunge artists from Seattle and New York when we began and they opened up about how emotionally sick they felt, particularly as a result of how they were portrayed by British music critics. When we started, we decided we didn’t want to go…