By now you have seen the new issue of Us, featuring "THE OMG PHOTOS!" of Kim Kardashian in a bikini. She looks fabulous, and the images make all of the headlines claiming she is fat, disgusting, obese and 200 lbs. seem like the shitty inconsequential lies that they are. And it's interesting: Us has been the only one of the five tabloids we cover every week to constantly defend Kim Kardashian and do Kardashian-friendly covers.
There was a rumor a while back that the editors at Us make deals with certain shows and/or celebs. For a while the mag covered The Hills — in a positive way, with "exclusive" content — every other week. Now it seems they've done the same with the Kardashians. In February, the mag ran an interview with Kris about motherhood. In March, the mag defended Kim against other tabloids calling her fat. In early April, the cover story was an interview with Khloe about her "best body ever." And now, once again, the mag is Team Kardashian, featuring Kim in super-flattering swimsuit shots. Which is cool, because fat-shaming sucks. But are the photos retouched? The editors at competitor publication In Touch certainly want you to think so. The new issue of In Touch includes a warning from an unnamed source:
"If she turns up looking amazing in a bikini, you can bet she controlled the whole thing."
We checked the photo credits on the story in Us. All of the candid, papparazi-ish images in the story are by Brian Prahl, who shoots for Corbis/Splash. We thought we'd log in and check the images online against the ones in the magazine. But the images were not on the Splash website. Curious.
Unlike many celebrity vacation photos, Prahl's pictures are crystal clear and close-up. Very different from the grainy shots one often sees — a tell-tale hint that the photographer was 500 yards away, behind some bushes, in a tree, or on a boat, shooting the stars without their knowledge. No, Us's "Family Vacation Album" of the Kardashians in Greece are quite lovely; in addition to being nicely framed, close and clear, in some cases Kim is smiling right into the camera. Which leads one to believe that Brian is someone the Kardashians know.
And what a coincidence: In a picture published by Hello magazine — linked from his Brian Prahl's Facebook page — he is ON THE YACHT with the Kardashian family. Talk about access. He's on the right, in the dark short-sleeved shirt; his caption on Facebook reads, "gotta love my sunburn v neck look lol." Brain Prahl's Facebook page is full of updates about his trip to Europe; in one he notes that the magazines "always alter" the colors in his photographs. Do they Photoshop, too?
Whether Prahl's paycheck comes from Splash, Us, or the Kardashians themselves, it's certainly notable that just like Joan Crawford, Marilyn Monroe and other old-school classic Hollywood stars, the Kardashians have figured out how to use magazines to tell the story they want told, Sweet Smell of Success-style. The old I'll-scratch-your-back-you-print-photos-I-like routine.
Many readers buy tabloids hoping for unscripted, off-the-cuff, uncensored moments as well as unposed, unvarnished, "real" photos you just don't get in the glossy ladymags or Vanity Fair. These pictures look like the stars-without-makeup/caught-in-their-natural-habitat candid paparazzi photos readers are used to, but with a photographer embedded with the family — and the amount of body makeup Kim is rocking with that bikini — one has to assume they're really NOT. Still: Us gets an exclusive, the Kardashians get pictures they actually like, Prahl gets paid and tabloid lovers get nice, sharp images and a story from someone actually on the scene. An aside: Prahl's images are credited with his name and the letters DFWM, as in Don't Fuck With Me. Well-played, by everyone involved.