29 June 2011

Fashionistas Strike Again - Sex and War

All three images from "Muscle Beach" © Alexi Lubomirski.

It has been a while since I posted on the ways fashion photographers blur the boundaries of militarism and, well, tawdry sex [e.g., here and here and here]. I recently came across this series (posted without comment) taken by Alexi Lubomirski* for the German version of Vogue. That Lubomirski's images are slightly less misogynistic than those I've noted before hardly makes them defensible - and it seems to me that they are entirely derivative.

To call these images militaristic may seem odd. You'll note, though, that the men in these images are not only (scantily) dressed in military garb, but are sporting dog tags. And while they are working out in sandy terrain, I doubt it is meant to convey a beach! So, take some G.I.s enjoying a little R&R - all glistening, bulging pecs and biceps - and drape models over them and voila! - yet another sanitized, sexualized vision of war.

You may think that that claim is a stretch. But as I have pointed out before, fashion photographers have an odd relationship to issues militarism and security. And our "embedded" photojournalists have (among other things) had their work integrated into homogenized reporting (here), been sharply criticized for actually depicting the agony of war (here) and, too often, focused on "our boys" at play - the human interest side of death and destruction (here and here and here and here).** Lubomirski's series seems to me to represent a hybrid between this last category and the misogyny of the fashion photography to which I link above.
* When you get to Lubomirski's web page click Editorial, then German Vogue, then 2011, then "Muscle Beach." The photographer too posts the images without comment.
** Make no mistake - the clear difference in genre here lies in the fact that photojournalists risk their lives for their work - see e.g., here and here and here and here and here and here.

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