Have fashion photographers hit rock bottom?
Many are mimicking tabloids and drawing inspiration from gossip rags for shoots appearing on the glossy pages of reputedly classy publications like Vogue, Marie Claire and W.
Steven Meisel, one of fashion’s most successful photographers in the world, is renowned for his tongue-in-chic work with leading design houses, and Italian and US Vogue. Most of his concepts result in either cult status followings or controversial backlashes.
His images draw from a combination of cultural trends, innovative artistry and his uncanny wit. Most of his features look as if it belongs between the hard covers of an expensive arty book (not surprising then that he was the photographer for Madonna’s SEX).
Makeover Madness (Italian Vogue, July 2005), featuring Linda Evangelista, is an example of the shock story-telling technique Meisel employs. It’s a critique of the trend at the time: plastic surgery and our preoccupation with perfection or the ‘All American’ beauty.
State of Emergency (Italian Vogue, September 2006) is infamous for the consequent feminist uproar and Italian police allegations of its pornographic nature. It has vivid images of women in violent situations: being arrested by riot police or interrogated by government officials.
His latest offering, Off the Wagon in Italian Vogue has been met with a few raised brows to say the least.
Fashion has always flirted with addiction: the emergence of ‘fast-fashion’ and references to ‘must-haves’ smack of a dependence of some kind. Heroin chic was all the rage not too long ago and we could be witnessing a revival of some sort.
Pete Doherty has fronted the campaign of Gio-Goi despite a drug riddled past and present. The usually bright-eyed and bushy tailed Gwyneth Paltrow adorns the cover of W looking the lighter shade of OD. The lifeless images of the feature article are startling to say the least – an embodiment of the pallor of headline hags Li-lo and Britney Spears.
Many have argued that fashion glamorises the use of narcotics. Miesel seems to have hit that very nerve by recreating scenes of the unravelling lives of stars seeking rehabilitation. Once again, he has become the centre of a fiery debate about media’s responsibility to society. Noble as the cause may be, have we not forgotten something?
Fashionistas the world over turn pages to find out about fashion: what’s in, who’s out wearing it and where to get it. So it’s slightly confusing that Vogue would lend its brand to projects that do not cater to the needs of the very people who splurge on their magazines. After all, most of the luxury fashion brands whose garments grace the pages of this controversial spread can barely be seen. What happened to being the clotheshorse of exclusive designs?
Aside from this very obvious blunder, what’s even more disappointing is that they seem to be selling out. We have all smarted at the spiky comment that fashion is fickle. Now we are left with no recourse as these images are quite obviously drawn from the real life tragedies that are young celebs. Has the obsession with fame and misfortune infiltrated every aspect of our world? So much so that the very glossies that declare themselves a cut above the cheap gossip rags, are eating their words?
Boundaries are set to blur as we forge ahead in the making of fashion history. I just hope we don’t lose sight of what we’re about in the process.