TIME Breaks Down ‘Person Of The Year’ Cover Featuring Taylor Swift’s Cat
By Mikelle Leow, 07 Dec 2023
Image via TIME
Taylor Swift’s reputation is soaring to new heights, just when you thought she was at her pinnacle, earning the prestigious title of TIME Magazine’s Person of the Year. The pop icon’s selection marks a groundbreaking moment as she becomes the first individual to clinch this honor solely for contributions as an entertainer, underscoring her profound impact on global culture.
TIME’s 2023 cover story on Swift features a trio of cover photos, each capturing a unique facet of her multifaceted personality. One cover depicts Swift in a contemplative, Folklore-esque mood, another radiates with her signature glamour and glitter, while the third charmingly includes her beloved and fluffy feline companion, Benjamin Button.
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Behind the lens were acclaimed photographer duo Inez van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin. Known for their captivating celebrity portraits, the pair also previously worked with Swift for a 2019 Vogue feature. For TIME’s cover, they captured Swift’s essence in New York City amid her Eras tour, striving to reflect the multiple dimensions of her character.
In an interview with the magazine, van Lamsweerde delves into the preparation and inspiration behind the shoot, revealing that the photographers immersed themselves in Swif’s The Eras Tour movie and explored her evolving personas over her career. The goal was to portray Swift’s empathy, glamor, defiance, and strength, capturing her growth since their last collaboration. Van Lamsweerde praised Swift’s openness, respectfulness, and collaborative spirit, which seemed to have been unaffected by her fame.
The interview expands on the inspiration behind the shot of Swift with Benjamin Button on her shoulder. Van Lamsweerde reveals that the paw-fect image portrays old Hollywood attributes from Bill Hayward’s 1970s book Cat People.
Image via Amazon
“There’s a book by photographer Bill Hayward called Cat People from the 70s, with journalistic photos of cat lovers and their cats, but it’s all entertainers, writers, journalists—some very famous, some not so famous,” van Lamsweerde tells TIME. “And the pictures are brilliant. It shows very well the relationship that people have with their cats. But at the same time, [shows] the way cats are kind of on their own—they’re a special breed of animal.”
Van Lamsweerde says she obtained a vintage copy of the book and gifted it to Swift as she was such a cat lover.
“And I said, ‘You know, I’ve always wanted to do a picture like the one that’s on the cover of that book where the cat’s on the shoulder of the girl.’ It speaks to a sense of carrying everything on your shoulders but being defiant while doing so. And she agreed, and that’s how that picture happened.”
Taylor Swift, TIME 2023— francisco (@FranciscoLicari) December 6, 2023
Cat people, Bill Hayward 1978 pic.twitter.com/SrJtY9MRPP
Per the photographer, the resulting picture, which symbolizes the weight of the world carried with defiance, encapsulates Swift’s cultural power in 2023—a blend of glamour, strength, and empathy.
Swift herself, back in 2019, implied that Benjamin Button was the most comfortable among her three cats being held, inadvertently making him the most suitable candidate for this shoot.
“I’ve never personally encountered a cat that preferred to be carried as if they’re a human baby. But that’s what’s happening here,” she shared in an Instagram post about traveling with her pet.
This year, Swift’s influence extends beyond her musical achievements, as she continues to advocate for causes beyond her industry, from encouraging young people to vote to voicing her support on various social issues. Her TIME cover captures not just a star, but a multi-dimensional icon whose footprints extend across various realms of culture and society.
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