[Photobook Review] Billie Eilish by Billie Eilish [Wren & Rook]


Billie Eilish Photobook review by Cara Lennon

Why are photobooks so goddamn fun? 

Try to make me follow your Insta and I will roll my eyes right into the quarkth dimension. 

Same photos in a big shiny hardcover? Sign me up five times and staple my license to your mailing list.

Slick in format and warmly weird in content, this is exactly the Burtonesque, high fashion horror show that any Eilish fan is gonna absolutely love. 

Read cover-to-cover, the photos show a story rarely alluded to in Billie Eilish’s accompanying commentary. A homeschool kid raised by two musicians in shambling surrounds, going through the obligatory Pink and Bieber phases, wound by degrees into a machine of cameras, crowds, hype, and fantastic scale. 

Eilish grew up writing songs with her brother Finneas, her first hit Ocean Eyes blowing up when she was 13, hitting the Billboard charts with her EP Don’t Smile at Me at 16. This, of course, was swiftly followed by When We All Fall Asleep Where Do We Go?. Her distinctive aesthetic set her apart from other tweeny pop stars, her intense colors, cluttered prints and bling against creepy minimalist backdrops elevating Eilish from popular to iconic. 

It’s a style that translates dramatically to full-sized glossies in this photobook, and Billie Eilish makes the most of it with seriously gorgeous shots from her music videos, stage shows, fashion shoots, and behind the scenes mayhem. 

Eilish presents her early family candids as a celebration of her loved ones and an invitation to relate to her adolescent awkwardness. However I did find that, even as a unapologetic Eilish fangirl, the commodification of a teen star’s childhood is an uneasy proposition. 

Collectively we’re still coming to grips with the idea that people need platforms, but exposure and self-expression don’t automatically equate to empowerment. Young people need and deserve to be heard, but we know by now the kids with the most microphones pointed at them can be some of the most vulnerable. 

I found myself lowkey scanning this part of the photobook for signs of dance moms and showbiz nastiness amongst otherwise wholesome family photos (but turned up nothing). 

If you can put the trauma of being woke in 2021 aside it’s a fairly sweet collection of baby photos that follows a girl through her glow-up into stardom. Eilish’s commentary is sparse and, apart from a smattering of meme humour and some fan service, revolves around her loved ones. 

There’s a sense of strong connection with her brother and her friends. The slew of baby and family photos transitions through gig and studio recording pics into staged entertainment-slash-art compositions, giving us the Eilish we’re all familiar with in glorious black and neon.

It’s a cool book. Get one.

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