Saturday, September 09, 2006

Not just skin deep...

By Grace

Now here's something you don't see everyday: a fashion magazine making a political statement. But then again, not every fashion magazine is Vogue Italia, known in the industry for its genuinely creative vision. Its primary photographer, Steven Meisel, is reowned for his artistic direction and his biting visual satire and social commentary when he's at his sharpest.

October's issue features Meisel's editorial, "State of Emergency," which takes aim at security measures taken under the Bush administration in the United States. Models are posed as being dragged from their cars with guns pointed at their heads, stripping down for airport security, and so forth; it's clear in these photos that there's a sense of overblown panic and the authorities are using excessive force (perhaps even abusing their authority?).

Now, of course, security measures and arrests aren't the be-all and end-all of the culture of fear that President George W. Bush is spreading, but they're two of the most graphic parts of it. And airport security checks, in their current incarnation, does impact regular people, as well as industry, in a major way. It's not quite Abu Ghraib (although the pictures may be taking a step in that direction, too, in terms of the treatment of those being arrested), and wiretapping is a difficult subject matter to get... fashion-y about, but the point is well made.

My only real nitpick, naturally, is that the targets of force are all Caucasian women, which certainly deviates from what's happening in reality. But then again, that's where we can't forget that this is a fashion spread whose real purpose is to shill the clothes. But the fact that they're taking on this topic is quite bold.

Also interesting to note is that this comes from an Italian publication. American Vogue would never allow something as incendiary as this on its pages.

Need convincing? Here are a couple of selected photographs from the editorial. Click on the image for the full size, or click on the link above to see the full set.




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7 Comments:

  • It's also a pretty obvious example of the misogynistic attitude to sex that seems to pervade so much American-made porn. Some of that may be the language used on the framing web page, and I don't really read colloquial Italian, the the visual language of the photographs is riddled with humiliation of the women.

    And look at the cover photo, the racial inversion of one of the security guards being black. That's often a porn subtext, though usually involving black males giving a white woman "what she deserves".

    So I think there's a considerable sexual sub-text in this, and I wonder a little if there is something of the same in the real-life security theatre. I hope there's a huge sampling error in the stories I've heard but seeing this has raised the question afresh in my mind.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:13 AM  

  • I would love to say that this is a clever, ironic series of pictures highlighting the horrors of torture and excessive use of force. It is not. This is very similar to nuts and zoo. Glamourising, normalising and feeding the demand for violent sexual fantasies, brutality and guns. It is only because it is vogue that people are even considering giving this the benefit of the doubt and that is why vogue has been so irresponsible in allowing it's reputation for "classiness" to be usurped in this way which feeds sexist, racist, violent stereotype fantasies and misogyny. I resent even wasting this much time in seeing and writing about these photos - they already have too much publicity.

    By Anonymous Kate, at 6:26 AM  

  • I'm not saying that these photos are true-to-life, but this is not the first time Steven Meisel, or Italian Vogue, have made social commentary through their editorials (which I would encourage you to view, which would give you an idea of the works Meisel regularly puts out).

    Fashion is sexist, and occasionally misogynistic - we know this through numerous complaints regarding the age and size of the models, and their influence on perception of beauty, and so forth... but that's a different story, altogether.

    This editorial did strike me, in the way that violent acts were targeted against women, and I was and still am uncomfortable with that.

    I believe that the photographer is trying to make, or wanted to make a statement, but at the same time, as I have said before, this is a women's fashion magazine. Whatever he wants to say, he is restrained by the need to sell the clothes, whatever input/requirements are given by the editor, and the norms of high fashion.

    So, while I know that there are a LOT of things that are wrong with these pictures, I would request that you to put them into context - a political point being made in a fashion magazine.

    By Blogger Grace, at 12:46 PM  

  • Grace,

    I think there's a knee-jerk reaction which is unavoidable with images like this. A good proportion of the liberal audience naturally responds to most fashion photography as the equivalent of pornography. Asking them to place the pictures in context is probably not going to help - though you stated your case well.

    I think the photos in this editorial are provocative, and represent a political statement. That said, I also find the photos problematic, and I worry that they could wind up as pin-ups in the office space of the abusers. It's all in the eye of the beholder.

    Thanks for pointing these out.

    -VG

    By Anonymous doctor vince, at 3:01 PM  

  • It's also a pretty obvious example of the misogynistic attitude to sex that seems to pervade so much American-made porn. Some of that may be the language used on the framing web page, and I don't really read colloquial Italian, the the visual language of the photographs is riddled with humiliation of the women.Thanks for pointing these out.
    http://www.cashing-master.com

    By Blogger slowlife_lnc, at 12:31 PM  

  • By Blogger ahmet can, at 8:52 AM  

  • By Blogger tegmen, at 5:58 PM  

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