Currently reading : Make Love Not War by Steven Meisel for Italian Vogue September 2007
Declared by The Guardian as some of “the most nauseatingly tasteless fashion pictures ever.” This editorial created by Steven Meisel presents us with some of the most intoxicatingly fascinating fashion photographs which play with our own preconceived notions of what we expect, want and what is deemed acceptable from a fashion image.
These photographs take place in a hypothetical army base somewhere in the Middle East where the female models are presented to us as some kind of object of sexual relief for the male soldiers. Cavorting around in mud and dust while wearing clothing of ridiculous pricing these photos are imbued with an incredibly dense amount of symbolism both in terms of fashion, feminism and politics. Looking back on them now seven years later its difficult to know whether to cry or laugh in reaction to them. Meisel is of course exceptional when it comes to creating a truly beautiful image of an unrealistic woman wearing the most important contemporary fashion and his regular use of satire and current attitudes in his work has always been what makes his district to any other photographer working. However is it really appropriate to glorify the Iraq war for the sake of creating fashion editorial images? It can be argued that Meisel exists in a league of his own in terms of fashion imagery, he is almost impossible to compete with and his visions always surprise his followers.
Read the entire article reacting to this editorial when it first came about here from The Guardian:
War – it’s so glamorous and sexy, isn’t it? No? Italian Vogue seems to think so. In what must be the most nauseatingly tasteless fashion pictures ever, this month’s issue features a shoot (no pun intended) by the American photographer Steven Meisel, inspired by the Iraq war. Shock and awe most certainly – it takes some talent to simultaneously glorify jaded soldiers, rape and violence while selling this season’s Roberto Cavalli and Dior.
A model in a black dress that exposes both her breasts is leered over by a group of soldiers on their beds; a soldier wrestles a model in the dirt; a model in a black laced-up dress straddles a soldier while his friend films it. The models look like prostitutes brought to an army camp as entertainment, which kind of undermines Meisel’s title Make Love Not War. Unless, by “making love”, he meant rape: a sleeping soldier, with a smile of post-coital bliss playing across his face, lies on his camp bed while the woman (in Versace, by the way) looks traumatised and bedraggled. They wouldn’t actually let us show any pictures, but you can see them at style.it/cont/vogue/photo
It is not the first time Meisel has created a photoshoot of questionable taste. In the July issue of Italian Vogue, he shot 50 pages of what its editor, Franca Sozzani, described as “a fun take on rehab chic”: a model shaving her long brown hair off, two models being dragged down a corridor by men in white, another one walking around in just a sweater as if she had forgotten to put her trousers on.
In the September 2006 issue, Meisel’s shoot, entitled State of Emergency, eroticised torture and police brutality. In one photograph, a model in a red dress is held on the ground with a police officer’s boot to her neck; in another, a woman kneels on a prison floor while a guard with a barking dog stands over her. A “fun take on Abu Ghraib chic” perhaps?
What next for Meisel? I’m looking forward to fashion shoots inspired by Darfur, paedophilia and homelessness.