What I'm Watching: Slim Aarons and Lives of Privilege

A month ago I had no clue who Slim Aarons was. Now I do. Proof again that you're never too old to learn something new.


This learning opportunity was a product of my abundant free time post-surgery. Some wake to the cock-a-doodle-doo of a rooster. Others to the light gently illuminating a bedroom. Me? I woke up at the crack of dawn to throbbing pain as my oxcodone's dulling power wore off. With no chance of going back to sleep I hopped on Prime Video and searched for entertainment. As I scrolled through my options I spotted "Slim Aarons." The description was intriguing:


Slim Aarons spent his life documenting jet setters, movie stars and beautiful people doing beautiful things during the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s. In “The High Life,” the story behind some of his most fabulous photographs are revealed among white sand beaches, longing palms and relaxed, gorgeous faces.


After 5 seconds of thought, I hit play.


The documentary was interesting to say the least, explaining the life of a war photographer turned luxury lifestyle photographing man of mystery. We find out his life was a lie but his work is timeless, capturing images and consequentially feelings which would go on to influence architecture, fashion, and the dreams of middle-class hopefuls.

His images ooze privilege and wealth. They are the epitome of superfluous extravagance. While it is mind-boggling to imagine a life with this much privilege, what is more interesting is the universal access these individuals granted to Slim. Was this access granted for their own gain or vanity or was Slim truly a master at gaining the confidence and trust of his subjects? What attracted Slim to his subject matter? Did he have any idea of the lasting impact?


One of the recurring themes throughout the documentary is "WASP Culture." For those not in the know (like myself), WASPs are White Anglo-Saxon Protestants. The acronym went on to represent any and all "upper-class, white, American Protestants, usually of British descent." These individuals are known for their dominance in American society, politics, culture, etc. for most of the United States' existence. Maybe it was this power that drew Slim to his subject matter. Maybe he felt in some way that by capturing these people, this culture, that he too would have a lasting impact (for better or worse) on the future of the nation.

If this sounds like it's worth a watch, check it out here on Amazon Prime.

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©2019 by Taylor Mackay