Recently, the Style Rookie, Tavi Gevinson, posted some interesting commentary about Terry Richardson`s work. These posts provoked an interesting debate that questionned the boundaries of morality, sex, feminism, art, professionalism, consumer responsibility and corporate ethics.( I highly suggest you read them. Here and here.) This is my two cents.
I have never liked Richardson’s work. It has nothing to do with his over-sexualized imagery. Frankly, I think his work is boring. C’est du déjà vu. Yet, this is my subjective opinion. My own reaction to his art based on my tastes and preferences. That is thing with art: it’s hard to criticize objectively. Unless, you have Phd in art history or something, and you go about it using a bunch of technical criteria that I, personally, am unaware of. Nonetheless, some subjective opinions are important: those of his audience. So then the question to ask is who is his audience? For whom was this work produced? What is its intention?
My best friend is currently studying professional photography, and we often have this debate. She complains when her professors don’t understand the meaning or the purpose of her work. I tell her this, “Right now, your prof is your client. The picture you create must satisfy him, if you are to do your job. If you want to do something simply for the sake of art, then you have to do it on your own time.” My point is that we have to look at Richardson’s work and ask : Is this something that he was commissioned to do, thus satisfying a particular client’s demands; or is this him doing his art as a form of his own personal expression? In the first case, we shouldn’t only be attacking Richardson, but his clients, the ones who commissioned such photographs. In the second case, a critique of Richardson becomes tricky because it becomes a question of one’s right to self expression. I definitely believe in the freedom of expression. Yet, as fellow reader Jade brought up, one’s responsibilities towards their art depends on their view of what art is. If you think art should serve a larger social purpose, then you do have a moral obligation to ensure that your art meets certain social and ethical standards. If, on the contrary, you believe that art is merely a form of personal expression; where its audience is of little importance, then your work doesn’t have to stand up to the same kind of standard.
Now, it’s fun to debate about Richardson’s imagery. It brings up all sorts philosophical questions about aesthetics. Unfortunately, here, there is something more to say. Richardson’s work ethic has been brought into question. When models accuse him of harassment, his work takes on a whole new dimension. Whenever we see his images now, we are forced to wonder whether or not the young woman in the photographed has been abused. It doesn’t matter if the accusations are true or not: the idea is in our heads. So, we are no longer talking about the quality of his work, but about his professionalism. As a professional, Richardson should live up to a certain code of ethics. All professionals do, and as many people have mentioned, if Richardson was some suit, acting the way he does, with his secretaries, it wouldn’t have taken much to get him fired. So yeah, there is a double standard. Maybe then there should be a guild for photographers, like there is for actors, physiotherapists, and other professionals, to regulate their activities. Because we all know that Mr. Richardson has not been the first to be accused of harassment, and I doubt that he will be the last.
On the other hand, as artists, I am not sure that photographers would have to live up to the exact same standards as other professionals. If, in fact, the model being photographed is fully consenting to what is happening around her and has no problem with her role in producing a given image, no matter how demeaning it may be, then it is hard to say that the photographer in question is doing something wrong. He is merely expressing himself. Now, I don’t have to like what he or she produces, but the photographer still has a right to do so. Yet this is true if and only if all participants have given their informed, full consent to the photographer; because, regardless of whether or not you are a photographer, as a human being you ought to have a certain amount of decency and respect for your pairs. To force one’s will on another is inexcusable.
I think that this whole debate highlights the dual role that the photographer plays. He or she is both an artist and a businessman. As a commercial photographer, the pictures he creates are but the product of a larger consumer complex driven by the dollar. Here, the issue with the hyper sexualized images that flood our environment is larger than the photographer himself. To change this, we have to look to the magazines, to the ad execs, and to the other honchos in suits for accountability. And then, we also have to look to ourselves. As artists however, the puck stops with the photographer. He or she has the right to self expression, and the right to determine the intention and the audience of his or her work. And although, photographers then also have the right (and some would even consider the duty) to contravene given social mores and norms, this doesn’t excuse them from respecting basic human decency. We wouldn’t excuse an artist for killing his subject for the sake of his art, now would we?
Wednesday, May 5, 2010
I was just looking over the pics from last night's MET gala to come the the conclusion that I really enjoy Carey Mulligan's fashion choices. Both last night and at the Oscars, she presented herself as young, hip, and classy, and in my book, that is the winning combination for any girl in their early to mid twenties. I really like the fact that she adds a certain wit to her look, as well. Remember the mini kitchen utensils on her Oscar dress? Really, though, I just think that her style is indicative of my generation, of who we are and how we dress, at least for right now.
photos taken from style.com; Carey Mulligan in Miu Miu FW2010 @ the Met gala and in Prada @ the Oscars
With this in mind though, I have to admit that I don't know much about Mulligan besides the fact that she part of the new, hot, young Hollywood, that she is dating Shia LaBeouf, and that she is apparently a very talented, young lady. I can't really comment on that last remark though, because, frankly, I haven't seen any of her work. So, why am I suddenly enamored with Miss Carey? I think it may have something to do with my current obsession with Miu Miu's spring 2010 collection.
Posted by Ashley Sivil at 2:28 AM
Thursday, February 25, 2010
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
This weekend, I watched Funny Face, and I just got caught up in all of its reverie: Hepburn's wits and charm, her quirkiness as a bookish model with a penchant for existentialism, the song and dance, the endearing Fred Astaire, the fashion, Paris, New York... I couldn't ask for more from a Saturday matinee! Yet, really, what makes this film magical is its cinematography. It's the way it captures the exuberance of Richard Avedon's work at the time. It made me want to see more.
Posted by Ashley Sivil at 1:22 AM
Monday, February 1, 2010
Photo from The Sartorialist posted January 29th, 2010
My homepage is The Sartorialist. Everyday, when I go online, I am greeted with pictures of stylish ladies and gentlemen, who remind me of my mother, or rather, of the style, grace, class, and manners that she tried to instill in me when I was growing up. My style, to this day, is influenced by her and her wisdom though I have also tried to define my own sense of aesthetic independently of her. When I saw this picture, I gasped because it evoked all that I strive to achieve in a look. This woman has the class, the grace, and refinement that my mother showed me a woman should have. Yet, she is still quirky and unique with her style. I am particularly fond of her turban, but it's the way she combines it all with the big glasses, the fur and the chunky jewelry... It's pure style perfection. I am seriously obsessed with this look...
Posted by Ashley Sivil at 5:52 PM