Friday, August 13, 2010

Vogue: Water & Oil

Steven Meisel Oil & Water Vogue August 2010
The August issue of Vogue Italia features a series of images by photographer Steven Meisel showcasing the devastation and impact of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

Model Kristen McMenamy plays the protagonist in Stevens work. Dressed in black feathers or slick skin attire and shot splayed over jagged rocks and chocking on black sludge, Kristen simulates the suffering of the victims of the spill, raising emotions and unsettling her audience.

I believe the use of Kristen is important, because it connects us to the images more successfully. As a species, we're inclined to view one of our own kind in distress as being more devastating than that of another species and so the use of Kristen is used to drive home the emotion behind the images and adds to the success of Stevens work.

Steven Meisel Oil & Water Vogue August 2010
Not surprisingly the work has drawn criticism from some quarters and will continue too. Bellow are some of the negative comments found on the Vogue site.

"sordid n distasteful thats no art thats a fetish complex"
- kevin mouldy

"The images are at best exploitive, and yet tasteless. You would think Vogue would have a better photo topic than a disaster."
- Ted M

"Incredibly bad taste. Would the Italians have appreciated a "fashion spread" about their devastating earthquake? Nothing fashionable about it."
- Sue Murat

Thankfully most of the comments have been positive.

Steven Meisel Oil & Water Vogue August 2010
One has to realise, when art invokes intense feelings that you might not like, it isn't the art or artists that should be targeted, but the subject. The art has done exactly what it was designed to do: draw attention, create discussion and evoke painful feelings.

The feelings of ugliness, despair and anguish are due to the realisation of the real suffering the photos depict.

Steven Meisel Oil & Water Vogue August 2010
However the work is also a metaphor for our own indirect suffering, through the oil spoil and through our continued use of hydrocarbons as our main source of energy. It reminds us that the real victims are not the animals and the shore line but ourselves. We are forced to look at our selves and what we have done to the surrounding environment.

Current, Powerful and Provocative.

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