Fashion Photography - Offensive or Creative?

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h.c.l.

Fashion Photography - Offensive or Creative?

Post by h.c.l. » Mar 7th 2003, 3:42 am

I'm hoping some of you will share your thoughts on this. I was at another message board recently where a Versace discussion was taking place. I was a bit surprised to find out that I was the only person who found these images disturbing - others seemed to think they were 'creative' and 'artistic'. Just wondering what the good old MSCL board thinks...

http://about-face.org/goo/archive/repea ... sace1.html
http://about-face.org/goo/archive/repea ... ace14.html

[Hi folks. I just wanted to let you know that some images may be considered "mature", but none go overboard. However, they are perfect examples of what h.c.l. is discussing, and it's a great topic. Thanks. -Gary]

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Post by GaryEA » Mar 7th 2003, 11:07 am

Hi there,

While I have no problem with your topic, I would like to ask you if you could direct readers to ads that are less graphic (meaning: less skin). If you have more examples like the first one with the woman on the stairs - that would be great, and would still move the argument along.

The reason I ask is because we have visitors of all ages, and we must look out for everyone, even if the topic is skewed towards adults.

Again, this is great topic, and my take is that ads like these are just obnoxious and have less to do with fashion and more about the brand name (like an shoe ad that has no shoes) or even the photographer.

Thank you. :)

Gary

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Post by fnordboy » Mar 7th 2003, 2:21 pm

Well I will put my two cents in. :D

I was a photography major in college, not that I wanted to make my career out of it, I prefer doing fine art rather than commercial art, but I digress.

Personally I find nothing wrong with these images, and in fact have seen a lot worse than that in Vogue and the other fashion mags. Primarily, though, my favorite photographers tend to be on the more extreme end of things anyway (Joel-Peter Witkin, Cindy Sherman, ManRay, WeeGee, Richard Kern, etc.). And a lot of my own work in college was very sexual and had a lot of nudity, as did a lot of my peers' work.

When you get down to it, sex is what sells in America. Now, who's fault that is is a whole other discussion. As long as people support the ads and buy the product that is going to keep being the case. And when sales go down they will try to push the envelope more until either they implode or the marketing works and more people get suckered into it.

I am personally all for more nudity and more sexuality in the media (as long as they are of age < cough >tatu< / cough >. I think America needs to get off this sex is taboo mindset and embrace it like other countries have. It will only do more good. Statistics show there are less sex crimes in the societies where sex is accepted more freely and there are no taboos placed on sex.

And for the record, I don't own any porn and have never been in a strip club in my life :) , don't see the need for it.

h.l.c.

Post by h.l.c. » Mar 7th 2003, 3:51 pm

GaryEA - I'll do a search for some other ads here shortly, so perhaps in the meantime you could edit those links out? (Since I'm logged in as a guest, I don't think I'm able to).

fnordboy - I don't have much of a problem with nudity in general. I certainly don't like that it's generally female nudity, or that it's generally one body type. Those things I could live without, but nudity itself I'm alright with.

And so, what bothers me about these pictures isn't that they are nude, it's that they look abused, in one way or another. Nudity is one thing, but when you combine female nudity with submissive poses and morbid themes, but still make it look 'glamorous', I think it becomes a very unhealthy image.

(I've also seen worse, including little kids, but I thought I'd keep it to Versace for now).

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Post by TomSpeed » Mar 7th 2003, 4:10 pm

Thanks for giving the warning about the pics. I'm on the board at work. I wouldn't want to get fired. Ahhh, cubicle life -- you never know who might be walking by.
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Post by lance » Mar 7th 2003, 4:14 pm

TomSpeed wrote:Thanks for giving the warning about the pics. I'm on the board at work. I wouldn't want to get fired. Ahhh, cubicle life -- you never know who might be walking by.
Tom Speed,

Yeah I hear ya on that one. The warning was much appreciated.
I agree with Fnordboy Sex sells is the law of the land. Don't like it but there you are. I also agree with h.c.l. about advertising seeming to be stuck on selling a body image that is not representative of society as a whole.

Best,

Lance Man

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Post by Megs » Mar 7th 2003, 4:28 pm

TomSpeed wrote:Thanks for giving the warning about the pics. I'm on the board at work. I wouldn't want to get fired. Ahhh, cubicle life -- you never know who might be walking by.
Ditto. Thanks for the warning.
"I have all these dreams where I know exactly what to say. And you tell me, you know, that you forgive me."

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Post by GaryEA » Mar 7th 2003, 5:50 pm

h.c.l. - I've amended your post and fixed the links. I left two pics; the one of the girl on the stairs (which is totally bizarre) and the last "bed" shot, which was fine with me.

If you'd like to add more example, by all means. And I hope you don't feel that I was coming down on you - I was just trying to cover the bases while letting the topic continue.

Thanks again. :D

Gary

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Post by fnordboy » Mar 7th 2003, 6:17 pm

h.l.c. wrote: fnordboy - I don't have much of a problem with nudity in general. I certainly don't like that it's generally female nudity, or that it's generally one body type. Those things I could live without, but nudity itself I'm alright with.

And so, what bothers me about these pictures isn't that they are nude, it's that they look abused, in one way or another. Nudity is one thing, but when you combine female nudity with submissive poses and morbid themes, but still make it look 'glamorous', I think it becomes a very unhealthy image.

(I've also seen worse, including little kids, but I thought I'd keep it to Versace for now).
I understand what you are saying, they do have a used look about them, though I wouldn't say abused or disturbing (I know you didnt say abused I'm just going off on a tangent). Actually the only that really made me think of abuse was the first one, it had violent implications (the woman on the stairs), and the half eaten apple in her hand also reinforced that idea IMO. To me nothing in the other pictures implied non consensual activity in the scene really. Though they definitely had a Nan Goldin (spelling?) feel to them, and wouldn't be surprised to find out if she was indeed the photographer, or possibly Helmut Newton.

When models are that thin you can't not have a morbidness to the image, they could be running in a field and it would still stink of death lol :D. It definitely does show a seedier side of life, but not necessarily abusive or even submissive.

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Post by GaryEA » Mar 7th 2003, 7:11 pm

Personally I find nothing wrong with these images, and in fact have seen a lot worse than that in Vogue and the other fashion mags. Primarily, though, my favorite photographers tend to be on the more extreme end of things anyway (Joel-Peter Witkin, Cindy Sherman, ManRay, WeeGee, Richard Kern, etc.). And a lot of my own work in college was very sexual and had a lot of nudity, as did a lot of my peers' work.
I agree. I saw a lot worse in film school, and the stuff coming out of the photography department was astonishing. One classmate made what looked like a soft core porn movie for his thesis film.

But when you clump it all together, like any issue of Vanity Fair that takes twenty minutes to get to the table of contents, it's just obnoxious. I breeze by it, grumbling, and maybe choke if 80's fashion is back. Maybe I'm no longer sensitive to it, maybe I don't care.

Some ads are wrong by my definition. Not obscene, but wrong. You get a bunch of early teen looking models doing raunchy ads, and I'll even cry foul. If you want to promote adult ideals in a pair of jeans, use adults. But the fact of the matter is that they're selling it to as many teen girls as they are women - a blanket target audience - and it's accepted now if the models look younger and younger.

Like everyone else said; sex sells. Simple as that. Why is does is partly because the more we're told we're not supposed to look, the more interest is created. And there's that good old fashion human nature.

I don't know if we're headed towards European attitudes, with television and print having looser standards, but we're definitely on the fence. Whether we ditch that puritanical attitude remains to be seen.
I am personally all for more nudity and more sexuality in the media (as long as they are of age < cough >tatu< / cough >.
EVERYBODY!

"All the things she said,
all the things she said.
All the things she said,
all the things she said.
This is not enough...."

Okay, enough of that. ;)
I think America needs to get off this sex is taboo mindset and embrace it like other countries have. It will only do more good. Statistics show there are less sex crimes in the societies where sex is accepted more freely and there are no taboos placed on sex.
This can apply to a lot of other ideals we have. Drinking, eating, even drugs are treated with different attitudes in other countries, but we're the ones declaring war on them, clinging to desparate statistics. And we're failing miserably.

So how does it comes out? In part, the advertising we clamor for. Maxim magazine is more of a slick ad than a magazine. Glamour is the same. Sex sells, but we're also addicted to advertising.

Ten years ago, the average half hour sitcom had more content than today. Why? Less ads (Max Headroom was so right... sorry). We're an ad nation. The scene in "Minority Report" where the ads referred to Anderton by name was dead on - we want the ads to talk to us and show us an alternate "ideal" life, or body, or mate. A talking Versace spread with two women on the bed would be the perfect cup of tea for some people.

We tolerate ads, unless we have to pay more than five bucks for it. Example; an average issue of Vogue has a ton of ads, but it's fine. Tear 'em out, pass them by, maybe even look at the. No problem. Second example; Movie theaters, where we say "how dare they run an AT&T ad before the movie!" Why? Because we can get that for free at home.

First we have to stop being ad addicts, and then loosen up. We'd suddenly have more time to do things... like live with a clearer mind.

Just my humble opinion. :wink:
And for the record, I don't own any porn and have never been in a strip club in my life, don't see the need for it.
For the record, fnordboy likes to call them "gentlemen's clubs" when he tips the bouncer. :D

Gary

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Post by h.l.c. » Mar 7th 2003, 9:46 pm

GaryEA - I don't feel you were coming down on me, no worries at all. And by the way, thank you oh so much for putting that bloody 'All the Things She Said' song in my head! :P

fnordboy - I did say ABused! (And I hope you have fun next time you hit the 'Gentlemen's Club'.)

Anyway, since Versace itself makes the discussion quite limited, here are some other examples from various magazines and whatnot, that I don't particularily love. (There are a whole bunch at http://www.about-face.org if you'd like to check it out for yourself).


http://about-face.org/goo/archive/categ ... ies10.html
http://about-face.org/goo/archive/categ ... ies11.html
http://about-face.org/goo/archive/categ ... ies12.html
http://about-face.org/goo/archive/categ ... ies14.html
http://about-face.org/goo/archive/categ ... ies13.html
http://about-face.org/goo/archive/categ ... men17.html

This wouldn't have bothered me had it not been in YM and Seventeen.
http://about-face.org/goo/archive/categ ... /sex2.html

And, last but not least, the Diesel movie.
http://about-face.org/goo/newten/4/

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Post by Nostradamus » Mar 8th 2003, 2:49 am

... IMHO ... :)

I found most of those ads to be not so much offensive as just... stupid! I don't know who the target audience of the ads is, but I for one really do NOT want to spend good money on that crap. :roll:

I guess they wouldn't make the ads if they didn't think there was a market for them... <shrug>

I can see where some of those ads might perpetuate negative stereotypes, but I believe it is the responsibility of parents to instill in their children a healthy sense of respect for themselves and others. This respect can easily deflect any bad influences encountered later in life. I will add, however, that while sex does sell, there is still money to be made in clean, family friendly marketing, and some media makers would do well to take note.

As for the artistic quality of the ads, beauty is in the eye of the beholder; one man's trash is another man's treasure; in other words, it all depends on the individual's tastes.

Here's my opinions of each ad individually --
  • Woman on stairs: I think the apple may be a Snow White reference. The dress and the makeup are hideous.

    Two women in bed: Again, a couple of off-putting models in ugly clothing.

    Man with woman falling off balcony: This ad (along with the others in this group) was out of context, so it is hard for me to comment on it's meaning, if it has any. At least the woman looks healthier than the other models and is wearing a (comparatively) tasteful outfit.

    Crime scene: Out of context. The female detective would be kinda sexy if she weren't kneeling next to a grisly corpse! Ugh. :x

    Morgue scene: Out of context. This has a "Film Noir" style to it, though I still don't get the point.

    Woman with forehead writing: Same as above.

    Woman with shadow: Ditto.

    Nosebleed: Out of context. The caption says "violence against women" but I see no bruises, lacerations, broken bones, missing teeth, swelling, or other signs of violence. There are many possible nonviolent causes of nosebleeds, including dry climate, medical conditions, and habitual nosepicking. Also, blood in small quantities is sometimes symbolic of sensuality and passion rather than violence.

    Models with computer: Amusing, but still skanky. Agree it is not good material for teen mags.

    Diesel ad: Yikes! What were they smoking when they came up with that?! :shock:
One quick related note: Perhaps the best commercial I can recall was the Superbowl "Cat Herders" ad -- it really cracked me up! Yet I cannot recall the product or service being advertised, so from a pragmatic standpoint, I must judge the ad a failure! :P
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Post by TomSpeed » Mar 8th 2003, 10:47 am

We all know that sex sells. Maybe odd sexual images sell products, too? I agree with Nostradamus on all of the points he makes about these pictures. I'll add that wholesome images are often thought of as boring. Ads are designed to be noticed. I guess if the people who make these ads think getting their feet in the door is more than half the batte.
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Post by sine » Mar 8th 2003, 10:26 pm

Nostradamus wrote:... IMHO ... :)

I found most of those ads to be not so much offensive as just... stupid! I don't know who the target audience of the ads is, but I for one really do NOT want to spend good money on that crap. :roll:
I think pretty much alike. In the advertising context these images seem stupid indeed. They might have some shock value, though, and as TomSpeed noted, the pictures might look good in the designers' portfolio.

To answer your question, h.c.l., I'd say that this type of fashion photography is offensive [and abusive] when a part of advertising, but it also has the right to be considered as plain art and be hailed for its creativeness (if there's any, that is).

About the site about-face.org's galleries: if in the mission/goals page they name one goal to be "To endorse companies that promote diverse and healthy images" then what on earth are these images -- http://about-face.org/gow/newten/3/seven.html, http://about-face.org/gow/newten/2/two.html and http://about-face.org/gow/newten/1/five.html -- doing in their "gallery of winners"? The common factor of these pictures is sports, which in my eyes doesn't fit in the mould of healthy image: not only there's the competitiveness but there're the matters of addiction (to adrenalin/endorphin) and doping which sports connotes.

Another ad in the Gallery of Winners that could as well be in the gategory "Sex" of "gallery of offenders" is http://about-face.org/gow/newten/2/seven.html -- you don't need much experience in reading symbols to see the sexism in that one, do you?
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Post by GaryEA » Mar 9th 2003, 4:46 pm

Some interesting examples in the new batch h.c.l. Thanks for offering them.

The ones that stick out in my mind:

The first one, with the woman falling off the railing, is just plain creepy. Here is a fashion ad, or a pic that's part of a spread (like the one with the well-dressed woman lying in a pool of blood), of a woman, not swooning or in some odd position, but in the panicky moment where she thinks she is going to die. And we're supposed to think about her dress. Riiiight.

The Candies ad. Here's another example of a shoe ad with out the shoes. Honestly, they could have cropped the photo at her knees because the picture is not about her boots, it's her. Strike that, it's about the sexual nature of the moment depicted, and I'm pretty sure she's not sitting on his monitor because she's wearing Candies.

The nosebleed photo. well, I can't read the text so it might have meaning other than that beautiful women (the lipstick) get beaten.

As for the Diesel movie? Wow. In a bad way.
GaryEA - I don't feel you were coming down on me, no worries at all. And by the way, thank you oh so much for putting that bloody 'All the Things She Said' song in my head!
No problem! Here's some more...

"And I'm all mixed up, feeling cornered and rushed
They say it's my fault but I want her so much
Wanna fly her away where the sun and rain
Come in over my face, wash away all the shame
When they stop and stare - don't worry me
'Cause I'm feeling for her what she's feeling for me
I can try to pretend, I can try to forget
But it's driving me mad, going out of my head...

All the things she said,
all the things..."

:D

Gary

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