Fashion, photography, sexuality and social anxiety?

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I probably shouldn’t pull punches here.  I find some of the rhetoric and claims in this video a bit suspect.

Perhaps the oddest part for me is that the videomaker is using imagery that she considers disgusting at least, while arguing (it seems to me) that the ads for children’s clothing used by American Apparel are somehow pornographic.

Now there’s a part of me that sympathizes with this view.  And then there’s the part of me that thinks… didn’t you just manage to make an unpaid ad for this company by using the same images as part of your critique?  Aren’t you also exploiting these children by showing the images, and not only that, but unlike the company that paid the models and their parents, you’re exploiting them without any compensation.  (Then again, by embedding this and drawing attention to it, perhaps I’m doing the same thing?)

It strikes me as a very slippery slope, to say the least.  Before I sound like a pontiff from a religion that doesn’t institutionalize child sexual abuse, let me just embed the video I’m talking about, so you can make up your own mind before I continue my rant.

Don’t view the following video if you think it might contain soft-core pron.

I have a lot of deep concerns about consumerism, and more than a few about sexuality.  Few of which have had any perceptible impact on the world we live in.  Maybe I’m just getting old and cynical, but my reaction in watching this did leave me with a lot of questions.  Unfortunately, a lot of those questions I happened to post to YouTube, where my dog promptly ate them.  (Okay, what really happened was that I deleted my own comment accidentally after someone responded to me, asking questions like: “Wasn’t I defending a parent’s right to sexually exploit their child if their child was a working fashion model for American Apparel?”)

A lot of these issue too probably have something to do with the tensions between my own interests as a photographer, but not a fashion photographer, even though I’ve always been interested in the edgy artistry of at least some fashion photographers and others who work with the human figure.  Cindy Sherman, especially.  But other too, and many of them who may be seen as influences on the visual style that I think Dov Charney pretty consciously “borrows” from, even though I consider most of the stills I’ve seen as largely product shots, with a “transgressive” twist which I assume is there because it grabs more attention than the photo style of a Sears catalog shoot, and is not quite as silly and off-putting as a Victoria’s Secret shoot typically can be.

This is pretty incoherent at the moment, I’ll be the first to admit, and I really should edit it a bit more before trying to open this to a wider discussion.  Sorry I’ve been away from this site for far longer than I’d intended.

I also feel it’s necessary to raise the question, “aren’t we pissing up a rope” when it comes to things like this?  Seems to me American Apparel is pretty clearly imitating, on a tighter budget and with less picky photographers, the same game that Benneton played during the Eighties and Nineties.  Make a controversy, make some noise, and maybe someone will remember to buy the product later on, when they’re not being supervised by their busybody friend with a rant on about how this image exploits the poor, the weak, the young or the pretty.

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13 comments

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    • banger on July 2, 2010 at 6:18 pm

    …that kids don’t actually pose in those ways. Well they do and worse. Kids today, particularly young girls are adopting very sexual posturing and fairly sexual clothing–and high-heels. Pre-teen makeup is more common than I can ever remember it. This is clearly a result of viewing mainstream media which is awash in the concept that, for women, being sexual is to be empowered.

    There are worse things in the world than girls being sexual and responding honestly to the cues given them by our culture. They reflect who we are. So I don’t find the ads particularly disturbing since they follow cultural trends. I’m more interested in critiquing the cultural trends and what the mean for our collective cultural autism.

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