Vagaries of Fashion: Harmless Fun or...Gasp!
Okay. This controversial editorial from Vogue Italia seems to have been getting a bit of attention in the past few months. A link to a site talking about The Vagaries of Fashion editorial, shot by Miles Aldridge, was recently sent to me by Other Half who is always trying to help with a blog idea when he can (thanks, Sweet) and I recognised it immediately. It's from the September 2007 issue of Vogue Italia and I know that because I was in Torino at the time and brought a copy home with me.
I liked the editorial a lot because of the aesthetics. Never mind the glamorous dresses and how great Anja Rubik looks; there's just something about that opulent hotel suite and its yellowed decor that could really use an update. I'm not exactly joyous when I see an image of a mother smoking and drinking around her children; in fact I see mothers and fathers smoking around their children every day where I live in England and I want to put those fags out on their foreheads. But then do we look to fashion for social discourse? Should fashion be taken so seriously and does it wield any real power? (That sound you hear is a can of worms opening. See here.) However, I must admit that as a mother I feel my tear ducts erupt when I see this:
I mean you just want to pick up that baby and cuddle it and love it. Neglect is the most disturbing idea for me when it comes to the imagery with the children. But still it's fashion, and an editorial spread wasn't going to keep me up at night. The reality is this is staged.
But not so fast. Look at this:
This one doesn't slide off the brain so easily. Because oppression and racism are more serious issues than child welfare? No, each are equally critical. The comments sections of the originating post was filled with outraged readers who raised all kinds of concerns about the content of the photo. But for me, it goes back to the staging of this shoot.
It's a compelling shot, visually. The focal point is the black maid whose dark skin is starkly contrasted by the nearly translucent white baby she's holding. Anja almost blends into the wallpaper with her gaudy-bodiced dress. Strong compositional elements aside, the immediate perception is that this is wrong. The white mother takes a domineering pose over the maid who looks on for approval/next order, etc. So back to the staging of this shoot, I feel for the woman who is playing the maid. How must she have felt being dressed up this way to convey this type of image? I know that if I were asked to be the subserviant secretary sitting at a desk looking up admiringly at my smug and vacant male boss standing over me my first reaction would be "Screw you, Bud-day." We've come too far and we've still got a long way to go.Those are my thoughts (condensed - otherwise this could go off on tangents for an eternity.) So, what do you think of these pictures?