Incendiary Image of the Day: Oleg Cassini Edition

No, not Oleg Volk, the Russian emigre whose image and text you see above. Oleg Cassini, the fashion designer. Until he was seduced by the lure of licensed merchandise (including the trim for the AMC Matador coupe), Sr. Cassini was a man of infinite good taste. Most famously, Cassini designed 300 outfits for Jacqueline Kennedy, setting the style for an entire generation of women. Photographer Oleg Volk shares designer Oleg Cassini’s remarkable eye for detail, shape and proportion. Both are perfectionists. But where Cassini used his talent to perpetuate an image of suave sophistication, Volk has a different agenda . . .

As I mentioned in a previous post, Volk and I shared a table at the SHOT show, courtesy of our good friends at Lucky Gunner. The conversation—if that’s what you want to call it—was punctuated with the phrase “I’m kidding of course.” The subject of Volk’s subtle humor: what freedom-loving gun rights advocates should do with liberal gun grabbers and bumbling bureaucrats. It was not pretty.

I find the irony more than slightly disturbing. No, not the discrepancy between loving freedom and torturing and killing people who would limit it. The disconnect between Volk’s peerless ability to capture the beauty of firearms and his need to threaten his perceived enemies (hopefully not myself included but I wouldn’t be at all surprised).

The image above is unusually jarring. Volk doesn’t usually work in skyscraper format. The KSG is aimed heavenwards. At the risk of over-parsing a picture, it’s aimed at God rather than a bad guy. The typography is odd. The shotgun ammo on the gun seems strangely out of place—even though the place in question is the nowhereland in which most of Volk’s guns live.

As in many of his posters, the most disconcerting part of this image is Volk’s punchline: “You can make 14 more.” What greater contrast could there be than the one between this sterile image and a body with fourteen 37mm holes in it?”

And that’s why this could never be an official image. Like all firearms manufacturers, Kel-Tec has to walk the line between beauty and the beast. A line between sex appeal and out-and-out bloodlust. At the outer edge of mucho macho gun advertising you’ll find words like “readiness” and “threat”.  Fourteen holes? Not so much.

Oleg Cassini was not as good at self-promotion as peers like Pierre Cardin, Bill Blass, and Givenchy. While he loved money and fame, he didn’t mind letting his clothes do the talking. Oleg Volk is one of the best firearms photographers this world has ever known. If only he’d learn that images speak louder than words.