First blog post! I wrote this a few months ago in response to the news that Brooklyn Beckham was going to shoot a Burberry fragrance campaign – it’s an example of just how much celebrity offspring wrongly benefit from their parent’s fame, and here’s why!
Googling photographers of Burberry fragrance campaigns tellingly yields only one result: Brooklyn Beckham. The eldest son of David and Victoria Beckham (don’t pretend you didn’t know that) was recently announced as the photographer of Burberry’s #THISISBRIT campaign – despite the fact that he is sixteen, has had no professional training and, according to a host of excitable headlines, only expressed a serious interest in photography a few months ago. Eschewing their usual photographer Mario Testino – basically fashion photographer royalty – in favour of Beckham, it was a decision which encapsulated the youthful ethos of their latest campaign, showcasing up-and-coming British models and capitalising upon Beckham’s 6.1 million Instagram followers. Regardless of the social media, teenager-orientated spin, it’s pretty difficult to ignore the fact that not many 16 year olds receive a job usually reserved for the illustrious photographers of the fashion world, and that Beckham wouldn’t have gained his followers or his place in the spotlight if it hadn’t have been for his successful parents. Because what has Brooklyn Beckham really achieved by himself? Well, nothing really.
Chris Floyd, a fashion photographer known for shooting celebrities such as Stephen Fry and Paul McCartney, labelled the choice of Beckham as a ‘devaluation of photography’ and he’s absolutely right. Although Beckham might be a savvy choice of Burberry chief creative and chief executive officer Christopher Bailey, designed to gain more publicity, interest and – crucially – business from his many followers, it implies that a teenager’s black and white Instagram ‘aesthetic’ is equitable to the hard work, dedication and commitment put in by professional photographers, many of whom never achieve their dream. Beckham might be talented and it was certainly in his best interests to accept this offer – what teenager wouldn’t jump at the chance of their dream job? – but in a world where opportunities in the creative arts are already severely limited, a fact of which many in the fashion industry will be well aware, such a decision seems unbelievably nepotistic and ill-judged. Bailey himself, the son of a carpenter and Marks and Spencer window dresser, rose to his current position based on talent and hard graft; the choice of Beckham seems to overlook and undermine Bailey’s own route to success, suggesting that aptitude and creativity are meaningless compared to cold harsh economic facts and the draw of the Beckham name.
Considering his parents’ working class background and their rise to fame based solely on their own talents and hard work, this blatant privilege seems more shocking: as depressing as it is, it’s accepted that the children of the rich and well-connected will automatically have an easier time forging careers but, as Floyd also points out, you would hope that parents like David and Victoria Beckham might be more keen to instil a work ethic in their son. It’s also worth noting that their younger son Romeo Beckham has starred in three Burberry campaigns and the family are regulars at the runway shows. In this light, it can be seen as no more than a family friend helping the Beckham children out, but, unlike other similar cases, this isn’t an internship or a small push up the career ladder: it’s a catapult into the highest echelons of an industry for which a sixteen year old simply isn’t qualified.
Society’s saturation in celebrity culture means that the offspring of famous parents will be known to the world and followed by the paparazzi since birth, effectively immersing them in fame and attention that they haven’t deserved or warranted. Growing up in a world populated by your parents’ successful friends inevitably leads to increased opportunities – openings that most teenagers or, in fact, adults can only fantasise about. Think of Lily-Rose Depp or Jaden and Willow Smith and the buzz that simply surrounded their existence before they did anything actually worth remarking upon. Both the Smith children have starred in their parents’ films, a tradition continued by Judd Apatow and Leslie Mann’s family, a choice that inevitably furthers their children’s careers and pushes them further in the spotlight, even if it’s seen only as a bit of fun. Stella McCartney, Rashida Jones and Colin Hanks too – despite their evident talent, it’s easy to speculate whether they would have been noticed in a line-up of other hopeful aspirants if it hadn’t been for the cultural weight of their fathers. Picture North West and Blue Ivy Carter in twenty years: can you honestly say that their careers won’t have benefited because of their world famous parents?
Not only does this increase the difficulty of establishing careers in notoriously competitive fields such as the arts, it upholds the belief that the few lucky offspring of celebrities are automatically more entitled to opportunities than the average person dedicating their lives to fulfilling their dreams – I’m all for talented creative family dynasties, but when they push out deserving candidates in favour of a teenager with a penchant for Instagram selfies? No thanks.
Image: Brooklyn Beckham/Burberry