Fashion and beauty ads have always been there to present us with glamour, sex appeal and art, but it can only be considered that up to a point until its meaning is lost. In most cases I can see the art within the image and the message they aim to convey although the images present did anything but that. Upon my first viewing of these images I understood immediately why there was such large controversy revolving around the campaign. Bulgarian fashion magazine 12 published these ‘disturbing’ and ‘horrific’ images entitled ‘Victims of Beauty’ showing six models that look as if they have been attacked, beaten, burnt and scarred. Their original aim was to sell the makeup and clothing although the objective and product is overshadowed by the image itself.
When I first saw these images my initial thought was ‘what the hell are they trying to sell exactly?’ were they trying to raise awareness of domestic violence and abuse? Was there a product placement I have missed? Although the stark contrast between the empty black backdrop and the dark-haired, fair-skinned models standing alone only enhances the harshness of the image and the message they could posses, the cover photo is what really stood apart. The image of the beaten model, with perfect hair, perfect makeup and an aristocratic look coupled with the title ‘victims of beauty’ only enhanced the glamorization of domestic violence, to me the connotation of this image was ‘beauty was the cause’ as if it had a price. As the models stare directly into the camera, in spite of their straightforward gaze, there’s a submissive look about them. They look hurt and weak. It seems to provoke the ideology that a ‘damsel in distress ‘ is beautiful. When this argument was brought up Huben Hubenov, the editor in chief of 12 argued that ‘the models looked dignified and in control’. With young girls buying magazines and idolizing the models and images within them they are at risk of unintentionally being provoked into thinking that being the damsel and seemingly weak is considered beautiful. Alison Meldrum, from anti-domestic violence charity Standing Together, said ‘Given that violence is already skyrocketing in teen relationships, this kind of perversity masquerading as “art” is very troubling. In response to these ongoing debate the editors of 12 said
‘ We believe that images such as ours can be seen from various angles, and we think that exactly that is what is beautiful about fashion and photography in general – that anybody can understand it their own way, and fill it with their own meaning.’
Sure the women in these images look beautiful, alluring and even sexy with their perfect make up and clothing and I even commend special-effects make-up artist Daniela Avramova on his skill, but this doesn’t avert from the fact that they look beaten and as if they have already given up.
Reynolds, E 2012, Should violent images of women EVER be portrayed as chic? Campaigners condemn grotesque ‘beauty victim’ photo shoot as ‘perverse’, viewed 31st march 2014
VoiceofRussiaUK, 2012 Sexualized violence in fashion advertising, june 28, YouTube, viewed 31st march 2014 <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6p4vgHjLhWg>
Anderson, K 2012, “Victim of Beauty”: Glamour of Violence (Once Again), viewed 31st march 2014 http://www.bagnewsnotes.com/2012/06/the-victim-of-beauty-buzz-more-glamour-of-violence/#sthash.BDdCex6P.dpuf
All images from