Our media landscape is populated with endless streams of images and messages glorifying, eroticizing and diminishing the serious nature of violence against women, an issue that some have called a hidden pandemic and others have labeled an epidemic of global proportions.
Lohan and the photographer have angrily responded that the images are just art and people shouldn’t get so upset. That, of course, isn’t the point. The bigger question is why photographers, artists, fashion editors, and others continue to find images of sexualized violence toward women compelling.
What is important to remember when photographs like these are released is that they are part of a spectrum. They do not stand alone as just one photograph or just one photo shoot. These images are part of a larger trend of images that feature domination, aggression, violence against women, and “dead” women (or as Jennifer Pozner dubs them, “beautiful corpses“). Through the use of body language, make-up and clothing victimization is implied and violence becomes commonplace. This gory stream of images, featuring mangled women with mouths agape and eyes glazed, is practically unremarkable in the pop culture landscape, especially in advertising. These 3 sets of images follow close on the heels of my recentposts critically examining the rampant misogyny and striking resemblance between Marc Jacobs ad campaigns and images of actual crime scenes of murdered women.
After posting the latest disturbing images from Marc Jacobs the other day and connecting it to the larger array of images in advertising in the ad-round up, I have found a few of the images from his 2005 ad campaign. The series of images below are not complete. They are the only 3 I have found (so far) in my mammoth private collection of ads over the last decade. The image in the middle is from the January 2005 issue of Vogue. I did not accurately label the other two images but they were also found in mainstream fashion magazines from the same time period.
What’s particularly interesting and disturbing about these images is how much they resemble the work of photographer Melanie Pullen. In 2005, I went to see Pullen’s exhibit High Fashion Crime Scenes at the ACE Gallery in Beverly Hills. Pullen recreated from files obtained from the Los Angeles and New York Police Department’s and various coroner’s offices, crimes that took place at the beginning of the last century. She recreated these crime scenes by outfitting models in high-fashion clothing (Prada and Gucci) and shoes (Jimmy Choos and Marc Jacobs, ironically). Her work is coupled with an artist’s statement that indicates her intention in critically examining the glamorization of violence and the distraction of that violence through the use of beautiful women in beautiful clothes. The fashion industry barrages us with seemingly normative images of violence against women in mainstream magazines advertising everything from clothing to perfume. These instances are exactly what Pullen is attempting to examine.
The difference between Jacobs and Pullen? Pullen’s work is accompanied with an artist’s statement and takes a critical eye at this rather gruesome trend and asks that we become aware of our tendency to focus on the beauty of the images while ignoring their brutality (they are images of actual crime scenes, after all). Jacobs’ work does not come with an artist’s statement. Instead, he is on the other side of the issue.