Water & Oil | Haute Macabre

Water & Oil

Water & Oil

Photographed by Steven Meisel † Modeled by Kristen McMenamy

Vogue Italia † August 2010

32 Comment

  1. I can’t believe people are missing the big picture here. I know I’m late on this one, but I lived close to the gulf my entire life. This doesn’t offend me. It’s obviously a statement and art inspired by current events. Does it look like the photographer is trying to glamorize the oil spill? Apparently not. No one here is wanting to run out and buy the pieces featured in this shoot. It’s beautifully shot, but obviously meant to look dark and dirty and to shock people, even those wanting to look at expensive clothing and try to forget real life perhaps. Is fashion not considered art? Maybe we should stray from all depressing subject matter so we can get lost in happy, frivolous fashion then. I think it’s entirely possible to be inspired by something without exploiting it. I recall reading that at least some of the accessories used in this shoot are eco friendly (made from recycled rubber). I definitely think the photographer was using this shoot as a platform to get out a message to a different audience about what we’re doing to environment. To see the model go through what the animals are suffering is brilliant.

  2. All you people crying tears that it’s in poor taste — Why? because it makes a statement? Should it not dare?

    If you can’t appreciate this style of photography as anything more than “an attempt to sell clothes” (really? did you actually look at those photos? do you think they will be “selling many clothes?”) or a fickle attempt at trying to “comment on something real” why not try opening your eyes. Just because the medium is fashion photography why should it be forbidden to make a statement just the same as any other artform? Why are you reading this blog in the first place?

    As for you Renee, crying out against the “metaphoric destruction” of woman, does it not occur that maybe this shoot symbolises the not so metaphoric destruction of mother nature? Your interpretation of this shoot as sexist is merely that, an interpretation. Which is part the beauty of this shoot — it would be almost impossible for anybody to look at it and not have a strong reaction. While I don’t think your own interpretation was what was intended by the photographer/art director, it obviously made a strong impression on you judging by your 5 or 6 replies. Proof that it is a powerful work of photography and art.

    Much love to Vogue Italia for an incredibly strong, dark and stunning shoot.

  3. This is brilliant! A fashion photographer who is not afraid to use a major consumer magazine & labels to bring the plight of the natural world vs the industrial world into focus.

    You can’t not look at the shoot & not think, ‘what the fu**k have we done’!

    No doubt that is why so many seem to think this is in bad taste. Once again Meisel has forced people to think beyond the fashion and about the world we live in. He has done it on numerous times before and no doubt will keep doing it.

    if the styling, light & posing were not so perfect something like this would fall completely flat.

    Congratulations to Steve all his team and Vogue Italia for having the balls to run this story.

  4. it’s interesting that many of you keep pointing out that you don’t like the spread and think it’s tasteless and awful…but that it’s intended at it’s base to sell expensive clothing and promote mindless consumerism….

    this seems pretty contradictory considering i don’t want to own any of these clothes based on this shoot. in fact if the magazine’s whole point was to sell clothes i’d say they did a pretty bang up job there. it’s quite obviously meant to be something more than that…a statement, an emmotive art piece…whatever…but obviously more than just advertising.

    also…this whole model thing…seriously…what else are they supposed to use? i’m not one for heroin-chic either. but look at the fashion world. it’s skinny, mostly white women. vogue is high fashion. so if they want to make a statement what do you think they are going to do? get some birds and photograph them with some terribly ugly people? what sense would that make? as a designer, i find it insulting to hear that nothing involving fashion can ever have relevance outside of fashion. you would feel differently if it were on a gallery wall? that’s ridiculous. if i were going to make some kind of political or otherwise statement you can bet i would use models, and clothes, even…dare i say…expensive clothes. cause that’s what i do and those are my resources.

    if you want true to life or subtlty go read utne…and if you don’t want to see models in expensive clothes…don’t read vogue…in fact this site in general probably isn’t for you in that case…

  5. I agree with Hazy, I saw this as a dark look at the disaster, as in ‘what was once pure & beautiful has been ruined by man’s negligence’ it’s eerie & strikes a cord. I’m sorry that others didn’t see it the same way. I’d like to think that was the photographer’s intention.

  6. I have to agree with Renee too. The pervasiveness of the dead/unconscious model in fashion shoots is really creepy. What does it say about us that the designers and advertisers behind this think that will get us, other women, to go out and buy those clothes? ‘Hey ladies, if you wear these clothes you’ll instantly look like a dead model too?’ Sorry, but WTH…

    And yes, it is art. But context matters, and the context hear makes it in *really* poor taste, to the point of being completely offensive and insulting. One thing the defenders need to realize though – while I think this is crap, I wouldn’t condone it’s censorship, and I didn’t get that impression from any of the other commenter either. Nobodies free expression is being curtailed just because we’ve expressed that we don’t like it. There’s no right to no criticism.

  7. Not judging this from the taste or lack of taste standpoint….I think that any time editorial content can invite us to think or remind us of something important it is successful. For me, it’s more about starting a conversation, which is exactly what is happening here.

  8. I think this is a difference between can and should. I don’t think anyone is arguing that artists can’t use tragedy (Guernica comes to mind) but rather should this be used?

    Plus I have a hard time seeing this as art. If this was just in a gallery and detached from anything else then I’d feel marginally different about it but its not. It’s consumerism, it’s just a really fancy advertisement for clothing that banks on the aesthetic similarity of oil and the style and composition of the clothing.

    So in that little respect, yes there was an artistic vision, but we all know that in the end it’s for consumption rather than art for art’s sake.

  9. As an artist, I find this absolutely amazing. The pictures are incredible and I can clearly see the emotion the photographer was trying to portray… I see that a lot of people say this is in bad taste, but I disagree. Artists use real things to inspire them no matter if it is good or bad, positive or negative. Even though it’s really hard to look at and not think of the tragedy…. It is an amazing interpretation. The oil spill has not been in the media as much as it was originally(and it should be!-fix it!) and well… it is a great way to keep it on the minds of all the people who view these images…. I say Bravo! Love them.

  10. Out of all the inspiration that is to be had in the world, why be so tasteless? No disaster is fashionable no matter what the pretentious explanation is.

  11. It strikes me as opportunistic. Fashion photography is not known for depth and here is a topic that is current and relevant and it seems to me that someone in the magazine said, “Here’s our chance to comment on something real!”

    It’s not a controversial topic. Most people agree that the disaster is a disaster. So it’s not really endorsing a viewpoint that might offend. It’s just underlining something we all know is bad and styling it and trying to seem courant but really it’s just… opportunistic.

  12. I have really mixed feelings on this one. My first thought was “Wow, how eerie and cool,” and my second was “That’s kind of in poor taste, come to think of it.” I think it’s the fact that this was published in a fashion magazine. The little captions are too small to make out, but I’m sure they’re the blurbs for the designer and price of the clothes, right? If it was published in some other magazine or shown in a gallery, it would be quite different. I do think there are some brilliant shots here, though. The one where the model is coughing up water is incredible.

  13. not sure what they are trying to do here? it doesn’t make me desire the clothes or even look at it as art. it just makes me feel sad for what has happened. and to be honest, i don’t need yet another reminder that so much wildlife has suffered and died because of man’s mistake. i get it. i don’t need it in my face via a fashion spread. if i wanted to hear and know more about it, i’d probably just turn on the news. again, i guess i’m puzzled. in a way, it seems like they are taking advantage of a situation to get attention rather than make an artistic statement or sell clothes. maybe what this is, is just good marketing?

  14. Except that it’s not really art, but rather carefully orchestrated methodologies to sell you clothing. That is after all the point of the shoot and the magazine itself.

    It’s just a cheap trick to pass itself off as art and I rarely say that. Normally I’m all for art pushing the boundaries and shocking people but this is just so amateurish and transparent.

    I’m also, obviously by this point, pissed off that once again women have to be turned into objects to be broken and destroyed. It seems like literally everywhere I turn I see some semi-naked woman slathered in oil in some attempt to make me feel sorry? bad? about what happened.

    I can’t believe how programmed we must be a society that we must digest major events via their projection onto nude women. All while demanding an equal society that doesn’t treat women as objects.

    Can events not speak for themselves anymore? Clearly I’ve been not pursuing the right direction as a photographer. Maybe I’ll dress a few women up in expensive fashion, strap wings to them and have them jump into cardboard cutouts of exploding skyscrapers.

    Then perhaps, I’ll finally be a real artist.

  15. I see fashion shows and shoots as platforms to portray a message. What I see in this is not something that is supposed to be pretty, or fashionable. I think it is a method of showing the horror of the situation, and a beautiful one at that. The one of her choking? stunning.

    It is similar to a dance troupe doing a piece about sickness, or any other difficult topic. It is one medium of expression. As a designer myself, I certainly hope that one can use fashion to deal with deeper issues than just a pretty picture.

  16. Way back in my first post I mentioned that even if it the intention behind it was art, does that automatically make it ok?

    Why does something being classified as “art” no longer make it available to criticism? This is coming from an art major and a photographer. I think that to many people hide poor judgment behind artist statements. Yes, even if it was a painting I would still feel the same way. Just because something is art doesn’t mean that people can’t find it distasteful and it certainly doesn’t take it out of the loop of perpetuating stereotypes.

    When I look at a shoot like that all I can think of is “yet another woman placed in some situation that treats her as an object and metaphorically destroys her.” It’s not original at all.

    I’d be inclined to treat this as a one off incident, but this isn’t the first time that Vogue Italia has done something questionable AND it’s definitely not the first time the fashion world has taken something terrible and tragic and turned it into consumerism. Look no further than the whole MAC/Rodarte thing.

    I mean PEOPLE DIED in this ecological tragedy and countless people are going to be effected by the economic downfall in the coast and I’m somehow suppose to feel that by way of a vacant model with some grease on her?

  17. i think it’s rather great. my initial reaction was to the spread as an artistic statement and not as a fashion shoot. i don’t think this is a reckless fashion spread but a rather purposeful presentation of the drama of the situation in the gulf and many other places that have been destroyed by similar disasters.

    i guess the line for me is that they were able to stretch this beyond typical aesthetics to being pretty much unattractive in a sincere analogy of it all. this should stretch our views in the same way to something beyond a trite fashion spread. i mean….should the fashion world be unable to make any kind of valid statement ever just because they use models and clothing instead of paint and canvas…if these were paintings, how many of you wouldn’t have thought twice about it?

  18. Yes, but why do women constantly need to be the symbol for delicate and innocent things? Perhaps it’s for some noble intention but it just comes off as some alternative form of objectification.

    What sort of society do we live in that messages need to be parsed through skinny white women looking all doe-eyed for us to “get it?”

    Why must women be the constantly portrayed as the object on the receiving end of some violent/corrupted/destructive act?

  19. Totally agree with Kirsten, fashion fails once again. I must say the photographs are amazingly done, however i find it quite disappointing, even if the photographer was making some sort of analogy. I guess there are many different ways of doing so, and still there are so many people that don’t give a shit. Shame on this month issue of Vogue Italia and MAC/Rodarte collaboration, it’s just bad taste.

    What’s left? oh let me see, how about making a catwalk in Arizona inspired in the sb1070 law and latin american communities? That would be the cherry on top!

  20. Am I the only one who sees this as sort of an analogy for the gulf crisis? There are these lovely, delicate, innocent things, all squandered because of greed and carelessness. I don’t think the photographer was intending to make play on a disaster, but to show it differently so that we might see it differently.

  21. I posted this editorial for two reasons : One, I thought it was absolutely stunning. Secondly, I was really curious what everyone’s reaction to it would be.

    Initially, I was taken by the imagery, but immediately thereafter, all I could think of was “well done, but way too soon”. I really do love when you guys get into discussions about things that we post!

  22. It’s a beautifully done spread, but to echo what others have said, it seems untimely and in poor taste.

  23. I’m not really sure how I feel about this. I’m not splutteringly-butthurt-offended, but this just doesn’t sit well with me. The photography is fantastic, and Kristen McMenamy is beautiful (even with the gray hair), but…I don’t know. I feel like these images are just…not right.

  24. what a clash!
    this is really good photography, but still, using this scenery as a display for fashion is just bad taste, imo. it leaves me with a bitter taste of shallowness and idiocy, and the incapability of people to think in long terms (actually the attributes which made the disaster possible.)

    pure perversion. imagine people running around in the “oil-look” – that could be a scene from a really ill satire.

  25. Not to sound like a prude or something but I’m not sure that turning a serious ecological disaster into a fashion shoot is in good taste.

    But on the other hand I’m all for artistic expression

    But on some sort of third hand I wonder if it’s necessary to use something like that. I mean it’s not exactly profound or anything. Meh…