13 September 2006

Fashionable Torture - "State of Emergency"

Commentaries I have seen on the pictures from Abu Ghraib typically have made two analogies. The images of torture and abuse are compared to photographs of lynching of blacks by whites in the United States. And the torture images have been compared to pornography. In her essay "Regarding the Torture of Others" in The New York Times Magazine (23 May 2004), for instance, Susan Sontag deployed both analogies.

Well, here are some images that approach the intersection of torture and pornography from another angle, namely "fashion" photography. The photo-essay "State of Emergency" by Steven Meisel appears in the September '06 issue of Vogue Italia. I suppose these are meant to be commentary on the disasters and excesss of US policy in the aftermath of 9/11 - an anniversary spread, so to speak. But it seems to me that Joanna Bourke gets it just right in The Guardian today. These are misogynistic amalgams of fear and titillation that, if anything, will simply invite a backlash from right wingers for whom torture and abuse are not a problem. The furor will not be about the systematic use of torture as policy, but about how Meisel has represented it.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am not sure what to make of these images. Thanks for bringing them to attention. Are they supposed to appeal to women? I could not quite tell - or perhaps I did not want to believe that these images would be an incentive to women to buy items of clothing...naivety perhaps, and likely a little gender stereotypically, they seem to me that they would be more interesting to men - am I missing the point?

13 September, 2006 19:14  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wonder if the Starbucks or faux starbucks product placement here is intentional?

13 September, 2006 19:15  
Blogger JoeCollins said...

I think you vastly overestimate how much right wingers care about Italian Vogue. There is essentially zero right wing audience here.

13 September, 2006 21:53  
Blogger Jim Johnson said...

Oh come on now Joe! I know that all you guys read Vogue Italia in the supermarket checkout line .... Actually, my suspiscion is that this will work its way into the media somehow and create more of a splash than it is worth ... there are always politicos who are willing to amplify nuttiness for their own purposes. I can hear Rush or Matt Drudge or somebody of that ilk going on about how Vogue Italia recieves funding from the DNC ...

13 September, 2006 23:02  

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