Steven Meisel is back with another “controversial” Vogue shoot – the latest in a series that’s been dubbed ’atrocity porn’ and previously seen swine flu, war and terrorism as scenarios within which to act out fashion imagery. This time it’s the Gulf oil slick that’s aproviding the topical leverage in that old environmental-disaster-as-edgy-fashion-forward aesthetic muse chestnut.
I have to say, I’m a sucker for their simultaneous high concept and their crassness, their pretension, cynicism and – lets face it – sheer beautifulness.
I like the way they invert a medium usually considered to be the shallowest and most meaningless to seemingly address grand contemporary issues. Of course, I also like that this is back to front – that normal fashion imagery is already the deepest expression of contemporary culture (even if only as by product of the hyper-consumerist subconscious) and that Meisels high concept imagery is somehow totally emptied out of meaning – an end game in the hollowness depiction of desire through media.
Meisels calculation and calibration of image is incredibly precise, balancing between between morality and amorality, sensation and seriousness, sophistication and stupidity without tipping one way or the other. This gravity defying weightlessness is ultimately what is shocking – not the actual content, or even their juxtaposition of desire and fear.