From 1980 to 2009

// 8 September 2009

Sean Lennon and his girlfriend Kemp Muhl have re-created the famous photo of Yoko Ono and John Lennon taken just before he died.

But, as Kittywampus points out, the 2009 recreation is so much more normative and boring than the 1980 original, partly because of the decision to reverse the original set up and have the woman naked and the man clothed:



Funny how John’s boy-nipples weren’t even exposed. His pose is more fetal than erotic. Remarkably Yoko Ono is shown as a sexual creature without being reduced to a sexualized male fantasy. The reversal of convention is so much more powerful than the capitulation to cliche in the newer photo. John and Yoko’s photo is both more intimate and more innocent.

Comments From You

Francine Hoenderkamp // Posted 9 September 2009 at 10:57 pm

Sean is totally missing the point. I wonder what his father would think.

John & Yoko’s is such a powerful image especially because of the time in which it was taken. It is so avant garde. What an amazing influence Yoko had on him.

Liz // Posted 10 September 2009 at 8:59 am

I love how androgynous the original looks. The new one is emphasising what the original is contradicting. It’s sad :(

Kez // Posted 10 September 2009 at 9:10 am

Indeed, point missed, totally. The original image is striking, almost shocking in its unexpectedness and intimacy – what comes across most strongly to me is John’s vulnerability – in his nakedness and his foetal-like position – against Yoko’s strength/self-sufficiency. The “re-creation” is – well, nothing, really. It’s unoriginal, it doesn’t say a thing. It could be any perfume ad.

What are Sean and Kemp’s motivations for this picture? Is she, by any chance, a model in search of some free publicity courtesy of her boyfriend’s dad? Just a thought. Possibly an unworthy one.

Rachel H-G // Posted 10 September 2009 at 11:21 am

Kez is right, Sean and Kemp’s version looks just like an “edgy” perfume ad.

Part of the appeal of the original is the fact that there are no models involved, the emotions are real and tangible and the usual order of such pictures is subverted. Even if you don’t like the John and Yoko picture, you can’t forget it.

Anon // Posted 10 September 2009 at 11:48 am

Not safe for work warning?! Please?

Jessica Burton // Posted 10 September 2009 at 12:34 pm

agree with comments above.

Just another tiny difference – John and Yoko are on the floor next to the bed, which I think further emphasises the intimacy of the scene. Whereas Sean and Kemp are *on* the bed, emphasising the sexual aspect.

Troika21 // Posted 10 September 2009 at 3:53 pm

I don’t know what you’re talking about – they are both revolting.

Nicholas Long // Posted 10 September 2009 at 6:08 pm

I just think this is a waste of time, and its clearly has missed the point of what John and Yoko was saying, I never write on these things but the image annoys me, It was incredibly strong as an image in 1980 and will live forever, this is just a waste of camera roll, and yes entirely to the women that said about the nipple being on show, its just a crass and dull image. How bored the Photographer must of been flashing the eye of what we unfortunately live in today. The word is Change which everybody needs to start living up to……

Sabre // Posted 10 September 2009 at 10:45 pm

Hmm, clothed man, naked woman… subversive!

For some reason that I can’t figure out, I find the original a bit creepy. Perhaps it’s because her face isn’t engaged – she looks totally indifferent and he looks a bit like a leech. It’s interesting though.

The second one is just sexual and totally boring.

Aimee // Posted 12 September 2009 at 9:26 am

Why is this not safe for work?

… I agree… The first one is so sweet. The second one is so uneccessarily sexual. Look at the way her toe is pointed in a kind of sexual pose, but John Lennon’s is curled under… like it’s cuddling her. And in the second photo, their faces are exactly like some naff photo ad. In the first one, they look happy… like they’re just having a lovely, intimate moment. How sad. I think this quite nicely represents the pornification of our culture.

Kez // Posted 17 September 2009 at 10:12 am

Kemp Muhl is indeed a model – Who’d have thought it *yawn*.

Matt // Posted 18 September 2009 at 12:45 pm

I’m a big Lennon fan, and really dig the original photograph. I think it’s important to know Sean and Kemp’s intentions before offering a critique. Who knows – maybe the image was just two lovers having a laugh and they never intended to comment on anything at all! Anyone got a link to something like that? Anyhow, I like the new image because it’s a naked chick and I would like to fuck her. Sorry about that, feminists. Most men get turned on when they see a sexy woman!

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