“The explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig and the subsequent oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico killed 11 workers, destroyed wildlife, did untold harm to the Gulf coast ecosystem and brought economic hardship to communities […] And as Steven Meisel points out in a new fashion story in Vogue Italia, the oil spill is also super-duper yucky. The new issue contains a 24-page story, ‘Water & Oil,’ showing model Kristen McMenamy covered in thick, crude oil and collapsed on a rocky coast like an oil-drenched shorebird, if a shorebird wore designer clothes.” - story (more)
Meisel’s approach to these kinds of projects reminds me a bit of Lady Gaga videos: Make sure to push the right buttons so that people will react. Meisel is very good at doing that. As are the people behind Lady Gaga videos. You might not remember the music (which is rather forgettable), but you’ll talk about the video. It’s using very calculated types of transgression, which never go so far as to create a huge backlash. The idea is to provoke, but to never go too far or to start an actual debate.
I think I’ve said it before here somewhere, those who are so upset about this spread (or any of the other spreads he did) really do exactly what is expected of them by complaining. Instead, why not keep quit and ignore what is so obvious? Getting ignored - now that is the big threat for this kind of work. It’s fashion, and being ignored is the death of fashion.
Which doesn’t mean, btw, that there shouldn’t be a debate about how women are portrayed in Meisel’s spreads. Of course, that’s an issue that goes beyond this particular photographer and has more to do with the fashion business as a whole.