Last week we posted an editorial that appeared in 12 magazine called "Victim of Beauty", featuring close-up shots of perfectly made-up models sporting horrendous wounds and injuries. When I saw it, I had an immediate reaction: disgust, shock, and "Why?!" We knew it was going to cause a lot of debate, as it did in our office when we first saw it.
Our commenters tried to figure out what the editors were trying to say, too, and their thoughtful and mature responses made for a really colorful discussion. Some examples:
Hann Fay: Again... Editorial piece! you can say or judge whatever you think, that's the way to provoke people to catch attention... Amazing the make-up done, hurray to the artist, will be sought for ? ? ? special effects, thriller, etc..... !
Kristen May Lee:Yup whoever did this shoot hates women...
Lindsey Schuyler: Why do you automatically jump to domestic violence? Why assume women can't get injured on their own? I think it's a really interesting shoot, the contrast of what can be done with makeup is pretty amazing, it's like two worlds of special effects colliding.
Alison Meldrum: This is appalling. Increasingly, violence is being 'normalised' in teen relationships to an alrming extent without this kind of stuff.
Most commenters didn't love the images, but didn't necessarily think they were meant to promote violence. A lot attempted to find the symbolism in the word "victim" and I think Jenna Sauers at Jezebel said it best:
This empty idea of the fashion consumer as fashion victim — of the stupid Vogue-reading woman too alienated from her own best interests to realize that cosmetics and designers clothes are nothing but frivolous distractions from the important stuff — is of course what 12 is punning on. "Ha ha," says the spread, "What if women were literally victims of beauty?" Eye roll. If we finally got rid of the idea that fashion is for victims, maybe we'd see fewer victimized women in fashion magazines.
So what WERE 12's editors trying to say with this editorial? They reached out to us yesterday to try to explain.
The editors-in-chief, Huben Hubenov and Slav Anastasov, wrote in an email:
First of all, we would like to say we are happy that our shoot provoked an international discussion, at some scale.
It is also important to say, that we do NOT support violence of ANY kind, and this is NOT a shoot glamorizing, or encouraging, or supporting violence against women. We believe that images such as ours can be seen from various angles, and we think that exactly that is what is beautiful about fashion and photography in general – that anybody can understand it their own way,and fill it with their own meaning. Where some see a brutal wound, others see a skilful (sic) work of an artist, or an exquisite face of a beautiful girl.
OK we get it, you're artists. Art and photography have a long history of provocation and titillation, and I definitely think the world has gone way too PC about some things. But here's where they start to piss me off a little bit:
That being said, we do understand why some accuse us of promoting, in a way, violence, but we do not agree with that, and we think that it is very narrow-minded way of looking at the photographs.
And after all, isn't it true that we see brutally wounded people all the time, in real life – on television, in the news, in movies, videogames, magazines and websites, and they are all very different, but alike in one thing: some are real, some are not. And fashion photography is an imitation of real life, sometimes realistic, sometimes delicate, other times grotesque, or shocking.
When you're watching a violent TV show or war coverage on CNN there's context; in this editorial there's none. There's no text and no background imagery in this shoot to give the slightest hint as to what the photographer is thinking. All I see are damaged women with blank expressions and a black background.
The editors conclude with two questions:
1. How would you perceive those photographs, if they were accompanying an campaign against domestic violence? Would you still think of them as disgusting or you would praise them as brave and thought-provoking? Worth the think, isn't it?
Nope, I'd still think it was disgusting that someone did that to women, but I'd respect the message. Because in that example, there IS a message.
2. What would you say if those where bespoken men, carefully groomed, but still, terribly injured? Probably nothing, and quite frankly that's a bit sexist.
I'd still wonder what sort of a sadist worked them over. But the reality is that three times as many women as men are murdered by their partners, according to the Domestic Violence Resource Center. And if the editors were truly trying to keep gender out of it, why DIDN'T they include a few guys? I may get accused of being too concrete, obtuse, prudish, and even yes, narrow-minded, but the bottom line is when, I open up a fashion magazine I want to see beauty, fantasy and escape.
What say you, Internet?