In the world of fashion photography, there seems to be a trend of including sexual violence. Photographs from high end companies that feature abuse towards models are becoming more and more common. For what reason, we can’t be entirely sure. This is obviously wrong, but I’d like to dive into why it may be occurring. I feel like a common assumption of any over-sexualized advertisement is that it is fulfilling some sort of male fantasy. However, I don’t think this is the case in the fashion industry. Many of the brands including references to domestic and sexual violence in their advertisements are primarily selling products to women. When a commercial targeted at male audience includes an overly sexualized women, it’s clearly trying to associate the fantasy with the product. Examples of this can be found in all areas of creative advertising.I can’t be entirely sure, but I don’t think women fantasize about being abused, so the reasoning can’t be the same as a sexual advertising for male audiences. So if it isn’t a fantasy of some sort meant to be attached to the product through the photographers work, it could simply be shock value.
Shock value is an interesting concept for any sort of designer or artist because it can only be taken so far. However, done correctly it can effectively bring someone’s attention to a work and in turn allow them to gain a better understanding of it. I think that fashion photographers want to do just that with these sort of images, but they are taking it too far. First, they bring your attention to the ad by including a shocking image of a women, perhaps including violence or death. Next, regardless of how you feel about the image, you begin to notice the products featured in some way. Now where the fashion industry has crossed the line in many people’s eyes is the fact that they aren’t using a shocking image of sexual violence to call attention to the issue, they are promoting it. By associating domestic violence with designer clothes, they are suggesting that it is edgy, not wrong.
Now, why does the fashion industry include images that feature sexual violence for shock value but not other offensive things? It’s an interesting question, because obviously many feel that these ads are not acceptable, but they continue to be produced. I think the reasoning behind this could lie with the lack of public discussion as to why the images are wrong.
The second image I’ve included above is a blatantly racist ad by Wheaties. There are many that would say that these images are both offensive, and that neither are acceptable, and I would agree with you. I would also say that the public, for the most part, would agree that both are offensive after seeing them. However, that Wheaties ad is from 30 or 40 years ago, but images like the first are continuing to be produced every year. So why can the fashion industry continue get away with doing this but other industries can not? I think the reason why may be found in the aesthetics of fashion photography. The fashion industry is very glamorous, and the photographers are excellent artists. Moreover, fashion photography as a whole tends to be very aesthetically pleasing. So when an artist from the high end fashion world produces an image that clearly promotes sexual violence, they receive a different reaction that most would. I also think that reputation plays a huge role in this sort of thing. These photographers have been creating excellent photos of beautiful people for such a long time that they almost get a free pass. When one of these artists or brands includes something that is highly controversial, it can be seen as pushing the envelop.
My goal for this entry wasn’t to justify the images that have been coming out from the high fashion world, but rather explain why there hasn’t been much outcry about them. I encourage everyone who does see these images as wrong to write a blog or use your social media accounts to explain why. Also, if you think that images in high fashion that incorporate some sexual violence are okay, please comment.