I'll admit that it pisses me off when celebs use their money and connections to take away work from more deserving people who have spent a lifetime perfecting their art and get to the point they're at. There's been a whole bunch of people like this in photography lately. It's not too hard making good photographs when money is no issue and you can pay the best talent to do everything but snap the picture for you, that's why it's even more disappointing that Karl's photos for Pirelli are mediocre at best.
Gentlemen, I understand the reactions but I'd like to disagree based in my limited experience in big prod. At least trying to open a different path. What basically pisses you off is seeing a clientelism. But to be honest you are painting the photographic pro world as a ideal craftmenship where the poor masters are spoiled by naughty well positionned stars that would not deserve best the part of the cake.
In short, they are robed by mediocre talents. (like a model sundenly become a singer).
Let me tell you that the professional photographic world stinks like politics. Yes what you are saying happens and always happened, this is not new. Now... the same think also happens inside the profession itself. We are not in wonderland at all. It's competitive, unfriendly, disorganised and sometimes talented. Sometimes right? 90% at least of the profession is pretentious and average. I do not see the world you are describing, but I might be then on the wrong places. Possibly...or not.
Do you really think that the most talented photographers in the world today are the one who really do the most important assignments? The practise you criticize are actually the common practises I'm seeing in the photo stratosphere. It's all about relation and a little about talent, knowledge and creativity. All they have to do is technically reliable, wich can be done (and wich is done) by the army of assistants.
The super all pros you are talking about are just framing and pressing the shutter, basically. But IMO this is the key question.
What you consider mediocre at best
sounds in a way, without provocative intention, pretentious. I mean, it sounds like Robin Woods who defends the "real" photographers, but how many "real pros" are actually understanding and more importantly feeling in their bones, what fashion is about? How many super pros have real knowledge from inside the houses?
We could define or redefine what an outstanding work is about. IMO, there are too many fashion photographers who simply do not know a lot about fashion, or couture. Anybody, included me, included you, included G. Bush, would obtain honorable results with the top teams and models involved. Anybody. I was smiling when I saw the Peter Lindberg movie where he does not even care or bother about settings etc...assistants are doing it for him while he's shooting. But he is the one who frames, choose the lightning and press the button. But if the moment you press the button is disconnected to the goal, to the brand essence etc...then there is no good photographer.
To me the good photographer is not the one who has 2000 years experience and have passed by all the required steps (that is the profile of a top assistant) but the one who understand and anticipate the momentum the shutter has to be pressed, and it does not have to have specially very high technical skills. History gave us example of those many times. As someone said, it could be a monkey if surrowded by a great tech team.
All you have to have is vision, and that, is not the privilege of a little group called photographer