Sunday, September 6, 2009

Photography, Politics and Purple

Freja's Purple Magazine editorial is up, thanks to candlebougie at tFS. And depending on your sex, your opinion about the exploitative tendencies of the fashion industry, and your views on sexual politics, you're either going to love it or hate it.

Best of the Season
Purple Magazine FW0910
Ph: Terry Richardson
(note: this is not the complete editorial, only pictures with Freja)

Look, I've taken my share of feminist theory classes but it's not my place to tell you how you should feel about this editorial. You're initial, gut reaction to the images is what you should use to gauge how you feel about Terry Richardson, his work and his "artistic" approach. Not what other people say, not what you think you should feel, not what you think is politically correct, not how you feel about the models.

As much as I want to go off right now, this blog isn't the place for me to pass judgment on Terry, the fashion industry that's embraced his approach, or the agents and models who are permissive and complicit in his image making. As much as I want to, I'm going to refrain and hold my tongue. (And I know that most of you, scratch that, all of you don't want to read a rant about patriarchy, the male gaze, the marginalization of lesbianism, yadda, yadda, yadda.)

However, I do want to do an interesting comparison. On the one hand, you have this editorial above that was photographed by a heterosexual male. On the other hand, you have this editorial below that was photographed by a homosexual female.

Clean Living
i-D Magazine February 2009
Ph: Collier Schorr

It's interesting to note the similar subject matter (in that there is nudity and Freja), yet completely differing end results. In fact, it's striking to me how different the images feel, how different Freja is portrayed, and how different I feel in response. Perhaps the differences are so stark to me because I know about both photographers and their histories. This hits home the point that photography absolutely depends on the gaze behind the lens and the gaze of the consumer as much as, if not more than what is captured within the frame.

There are different narratives and hierarchies behind all photographs that we see, separate from the ones contained within the actual images. They color our perceptions, perhaps without our knowing it. I guess what I'm trying to say is that there is no such thing as objectivity, for nothing exists in a vacuum. This is what makes photography such an interesting medium. It exists under a guise of objectivity because it purports to capture the "real." However, photography is just as constructed and affected as any other medium of art. The fact that it is so entrenched and intertwined with the production of fashion says something...I just don't really know what yet.

The more you know about social issues and politics and the more you experience those things first hand, the harder it will be to divorce certain ideas from your mind when you view these images...any images. So despite any enjoyment I may have from seeing two of my favorite models together in this editorial and seeing Freja's beautiful smile once again, Terry's reputation precedes itself and that's just something I can't overlook right now.

I'd love to hear what you feel and why because other opinions are always appreciated, no matter how different from my own they may be.

Image Credits:, scans by tFS member candlebougie


Anonymous said...

Just wanna say that love your blog. Keep up the good work!!
Greetings from Chile!

Anonymous said...

your writing is just mind blowing. you capture my mind and send it flying with analysis of the world that surrounds me. i love reading your blog and that fact that you write about freja makes it all even better.... Going back these pictures... they are definitely meant to raise eyebrows and i happen to like the pictures. it captures a sense of sexy glamour and by that i means
freja's sexy glamour. And when i put on my art lenses i can only appreciate it even more because it allows me to forget who the photographer is and only focus on the beauty of a still moment captured in time.

Anonymous said...

as much as i like some of Terry's work, i hate how he turns sexuality/nudity to something vulgar and tacky. unfortunately this ed suffers from Terry's chauvinistic take on female sexuality.

violet said...

Wonder if there was even a moment of hesitation when model do a full frontal nudity. They must be very comfortable with their own body...

Semi-nude can be quite sexy too. A little imagination, let your mind run wild.

I'm just glad Freja didn't strip EVERYTHING. :)

Anonymous said...

oh yeah i definitely agree with seems almost degrading to be honest.the editorial almost feels like a straight man porno teaser. anyway blogs are meant for opinions and i think you've done a fabulous job.

Rrose Sélavy said...

Thanks for all the comments everyone. I really do love reading what you all think! This blog definitely wouldn't exist without your encouragement. :)

Anonymous said...

I am in agreement here, totally. Terry is I guess the go to guy for fashion sleaze photography. Freja is go to girl for edgy fashion editorials. Put the two 'genius' factors together and I think we shoulda got much more than this. This ed is supposed to shock and ends up being so cliche it's painful. I did not find it sexy one bit.

SF said...

That's Terry for you trashy not classy.don't cope out Rrose, tell us what you really think.:D

Amber said...

I think that editorial is trash. Where is the intellect, the art, the vision? It's so cliche and done horribly. I would never subject myself to that, and if I was an editor of a magazine there is no way in hell any of that would make it into the final edit. Terry Richardson is looking a bit like a one trick pony with the pseudo pornography images and jumping into every other shot with a lame smile. It's complete bullshit.

But your blog is beautiful, and you are a beautiful writer. I appreciate the work you're doing. Keep it up :)

Rrose Sélavy said...

^Thank you so much! And thanks for reading.

SF, it would take a very long, very boring post. So I'll spare you the pain of having to read it. :)

Kasia said...

I these eds. The first is kind of sleazy-chic, you know? You feel like you shouldn't like it, but you do...and you're blind if you can't see the art through the sexuality. There's nothing bad at all about the second ed. It's innocent nudity, and it's rare that you find Freja looking so vulnerable and lovely...she's always lovely of course, but she's usually very, very strong in her presence.

Thanks, loveeee the blog!

Amber said...

Kasia, please use your brain. Or find one.

Anonymous said...

I'll go off for you: I hate Terry and I hope he stays away from Freja.

Egle said...

This is perversion in the worst way. How it could be not humiliating to shoot this?

Dom said...

It was cool that you started to look at this from an angle of feminism, and that whole listen to your initial pure reaction part, but that whole thing about photography and objectivity was kind of a tangent to me. when talking about photographies relation to editorials, to me, the obvious concept is that photographs are like other art, very subjective but unlike the others, photos can be reproduced in large numbers which builds fashion publications. I'm also a bit sad that you didn't mention (I think) the lovely interview between Freja and Schorr which talked more about personal stories and how the photos are a product of a certain moment shared forgetting that the images are made for the public. For me That interview added to the images in a way that they can't really be compared that Terry shoot.
Sorry if this sounded like a rant.

Rrose Sélavy said...

^You don't sound ranty at all. :) In fact, I appreciate the thoughtful comment. It was a hard post to write because there was so much I wanted to say. But at the same time, I didn't want to completely bore people with pages and pages of writing because i have a tendency to go on and on. I know most people are turned off by a huge block of writing on a blog. So I guess I was practicing some self restraint. :)

Zakary said...

"However, I do want to do an interesting comparison. On the one hand, you have this editorial above that was photographed by a heterosexual male. On the other hand, you have this editorial below that was photographed by a homosexual female."

Whilst you didn't explicitly say it, the tacit undertones of this quote represent a heinously bigoted attitude towards heterosexual males. Terry's work is in no way indicative of the artistic merits or photographic approach of those of the same sexual orientation.

You should identify Terry firstly as a pervert. Secondly, as a heterosexual male. In fact, I would posit that if a semi-depraved predatory lesbian were to dabble in photography, her work would be equally troubling.

I know this is an old post, I just found this incredibly offensive.