In a business in which image is everything, matching sweater sets just won't do — especially if you're a featured face in the Jolie-Pitt family album.
The 19-page photo spread in this week's "People" magazine introduced the world to Vivienne Marcheline and Knox Léon, the twins born to much fanfare on July 12 to Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt.
The images, which "People" would not release for publication, depict a seemingly casual day at Jolie and Pitt's French chateau, without the formality found in other celebrity baby photo spreads. The vibe is of a family slumber party; the photos range from the parents with their newborns to one-on-one sibling shots to all eight sets of arms and legs tangled on a fluffy bed.
But "don't let that fool you," says Howard Bragman, a Hollywood publicist and author of the upcoming book "Where's My Fifteen Minutes?". "I think it's what we would call 'studied casual,' which is the hardest thing to create."
Jolie, 33, and Pitt, 44, who said they plan to donate the many millions they received for the photos to charity, aren't trying "to flaunt their wealth, but their family and their beliefs in adoption and diversity," Bragman says.
Bragman likens the photos to Benetton's clothing ads, which used models of different ethnicities.
Robert Verdi, a celebrity stylist and television personality, agrees. "I really look at it as the reality of the Benetton campaigns," he says. "It's such a nice reflection of the idea of multicultures … and it's evidence that Hollywood's royal family is a diverse one."
The photos include siblings Maddox, 7, from Cambodia, Pax, 4, from Vietnam, Zahara, 3, from Ethiopia, and Shiloh, 2. Taking good photos of kids is no easy feat, Verdi notes. "You can't control four children, no matter how many millions you're getting paid," he says.
Although the photos may seem as if the children had just run in from playing in the yard, Bragman has no doubt that multiple stylists were on hand to create the perfect look. Both "People" magazine and Getty Images, which handled the photography, declined to comment on the shoot.
"This was very well planned and very well executed," Bragman says. "Yes, they have the maids and the nannies and the security and all of these things that go with who they are, but the message is that 'Hey, we're pretty regular people.' "
Even if stylists were on the scene, "it's a new age of parenting where children get to do what they want," Verdi says. "No child in my time growing up would have had blue hair," he adds, referring to Maddox's faux-hawk hairdo.
The photo session was held at the chateau, but little of the house is seen. Most of the photos take place in a room with stark white walls. "I don't think they are trying to look as wealthy as they are. It's about accessibility," Bragman says.
Verdi says the family's photo shoot reflects a trend: "Right now there's definitely been this idea of not looking the part, wealthwise. The line is so blurred that fashion no longer tells people who you really are — it tells them who you want to be."
The color palette is all neutrals, with the occasional pop of color from Maddox's hair or Zahara's shirt. "The soft-focus colors … it's pure, good, simple and clean. It's absent of the frills that take the focus off the humanity," Verdi says. Jolie's hair is undone and her makeup is muted. "That's the hardest thing to do," Bragman says. "It's easy to go over the top."
The kids are mostly in play clothes, and chipped nail polish and what appears to be partially rubbed-off fake tattoos are visible. "The implication of having this desire to save these children from strife and poverty implies not that you want to control them, but that you want them to have the freedom to express themselves," Verdi says. "You don't want to dress them up like objects."
The final product is "perfect," Bragman says. The family looks authentic, and the "biggest word in marketing is authenticity. If they try and look too fancy, people might not buy it. When people are trying to be who they're not, other people can tell."
Bragman predicts this easy, carefree style will spark a trend among non-celebrity families. "Every portrait photographer across America is going to be doing baby pictures like these."