Spice Girls on The Guardian Weekend, 1997

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I mentioned this in my magazine research post the other day – it's probably one of my favourite all time magazine covers. Photographer Nigel Shafran, faced with five of the most famous people on the planet, ideal cover fodder, went for something a bit different from the countless other magazines they were appearing on at the time. I recently interviewed former Guardian Weekend art director Mark Porter for Gym Class Magazine – he gave me a bit of backstory behind the creation of a classic:

In those days, Guardian Weekend used to pride itself on avoiding the usual PR-driven celebrity interviews. We tried to reflect that visually by trying to go behind the surface and photograph celebrities with limited makeup and styling. But in some cases that was impossible. We only had access to the Spice Girls in their public persona, fully made-up and styled, but we wanted to do it in a Guardianesque way. So we assigned the late Kathy Acker (who sadly died later that year) to do the interview, and tried to select a kind of anti-celebrity photographer (Nigel). Then we briefed him to look for strange angles. My recollection is that I actually asked him to try doing some body parts (hand, feet etc), although that may be selective memory. But we certainly encouraged him to avoid anything that looked like the images of the Spice Girls we were seeing in all the other magazines and newspapers, and he did an amazing job. But he also did a great shot for the inside which did show their faces.

It's just great. Half the cover is just floor. Not even interesting floor.  It says a lot about how strong the Spice Girls were as a brand at that time that they're still instantly recognisable by nothing but footwear. I have a very, very different cover of them on The Face from a few months earlier that I'll post up here soon, just to show you two different approaches to the same subject.

Image ruthlessly culled from Jeremy Leslie's excellent Issues: New Magazine Design.