Fashion shoots and controversy

The Vigilant Citizen has, this weekend, flagged up a ‘disturbing’ photoshoot for Paris Vogue which uses child models. Whether or not featuring children in photographs for a women’s fashion magazine is appropriate, I’m not sure that I would describe the images as disturbing. Photographers and the magazines they work for like to find a theme – often something many people would describe as daring and edgy – to differentiate themselves from others and to make it more interesting than just shooting women wearing clothes. Many photographers have had fashion stories published that are thought-provoking and controversial but, while it’s great to start a debate, in a commercial world it’s the shock value that counts as it gets people talking and buying more copies of the magazine.

Corinne Day’s Under-exposure shoot for British Vogue in 1993 provoked a storm of controversy because the images of skinny 19-year-old Kate Moss in underwear were seen to encourage eating disorders. David LaChapelle always appears to court controversy with his celebrity portraits – who can forget his shoot with Britney Spears for Rolling Stone in 1999? – but his fashion photography can be just as shocking. One particularly memorable image, entitled ‘Birth of a Shoe’ was shot for Paris Vogue in 1995 and features a sanitised birth scene where the ‘mother’ is wearing high-heeled sandals. Rankin has shot models as if they were fashionable corpses (I assume these images were for Dazed & Confused, but I can’t find any more details on this).

These images will survive as art far longer than the clothes they were created to promote will be remembered. Whether the intent was to shock or simply to follow an artistic vision that was different from the fashion norm, the fact stands that these are the fashion images we remember. French Vogue are no strangers to controversy. Last year they published a shoot with Dutch model Lara Stone blacked up, which caused rather a storm on the internet. They have clearly decided that people screaming ‘ban this sick filth’ or similar is actually good for their circulation.

In my opinion, the images featuring kids are not sexy. The girls look like they have raided an older woman’s wardrobe and are simply playing at being vacant-looking models for a fashion magazine. If there was an agenda for this fashion story, other than trying to find a way to shoot the clothes that hasn’t already been done hundreds of times before, I can only imagine it was to see how much shock and outrage they could generate.

Image via Paris Vogue.

5 thoughts on “Fashion shoots and controversy

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  1. I don't find any of the images objectionable and so simply chose my favourite from the set. However, I have changed it to my second favourite and see if that results in me receiving any comments on what I have actually written instead.

  2. I'm curious – if you don't think the images are disturbing or shocking, why do you also think that Vogue intended to shock or disturb us? If the effect created was purely that of little girls playing dressing-up, it wouldn't be shocking or disturbing.

    The effect created, for me, was worse than the nasty American toddler pageants, and those make me sick up in my mouth as it is!

  3. i agree they mostly look like they're playing dress-up, but also that (admittedly if you look hard for it) 3 of the 10 could be seen to be from 'slightly' to 'quite' inappropriate (the 1st, 9th and 4th on the page you linked, if you're interested…)
    they're certainly nowhere near as problematic as any of the other examples you site. The Rankin pictures actually make me feel sick. I'd probably go as far as to say that they're not as disturbing as your general run-of-the-mill fashion shoot, either.

  4. I'm intrigued by the article's reference to “sex kitten programming”. Is there a compiler I can download for this? For educational use only, of course.

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