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Nailing Down The Greasy Line Between High Fashion Photography And Smut

By Joanna Robinson | Miscellaneous | July 25, 2011 | Comments ()


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Okay, I sort of hate the word "smut." Just typing it makes me feel like I've got my hair in a tight bun and am delivering a shrill lecture while tossing your copies of D.H. Lawrence or "Flowers For Algernon" on the fire. (Baaalllllllllzac.) I'm a liberal child of (mostly) liberal parents and was born and raised in the sex-drenched Sodom & Gomorrah of the country: San Francisco. I believe that I'm Okay, You're Okay, that sex is fantastic, fun and should be empowering and that it's wrong to criminalize sex or any (consensual) sex act. Plus I write for this site which is all about boobs, abs, and, oh yes, the occasional film review. That being said, there are some smutty, creepy-ass photos in the magazines the kids are reading these days. And it's not sexy, it's not.

Frank/graphic sexuality as subject matter is, of course, nothing new. (Just do an image search for Robert Maplethorpe, but make sure your boss isn't looking.) But I'm not really here to talk to you about "art." I'm woefully underqualified for that job. I'm here to talk to you about mainstream magazine spreads and celebrities (totes overqualified for that job!). The idea, presumably, behind a photo spread (usually with an accompanying article rife with *ss-kissery) in a high-profile magazine is to a) sell you on this celebrity (So down to earth! So brain-meltingly attractive! So just like us!) and b) in doing so, inspire you to see their new movie/TV series/whateverhaveyou. And that's an understood and accepted cog in the Hollywood machine. They're selling, we're buying. But what does it say about the product when the ad makes me curl my lip and head to the showers. No, no, not in a sexy "I need a cold shower" way but in a "ain't no no water hot enough, ain't no soap abrasive enough" sort of way. Terry Richardson, favored by GQ and Rolling Stone is the most well-known perpetrator, but he's not alone. Here are a few recent examples of photographers, their favorite tricks and their well-known subjects. They make my skin crawl. Only one is NSFW, a baaaaaaaaaarely so. But there is, if you look really really extraordinarily hard, an exposed nipple. SHOCK! AWE!

The Terry Richardson T-Shirt Rip: It's as if these ladies could no longer tolerate the thin layer of cotton between themselves and the world. GET IT OFF GET IT OFF GET IT OFF.
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(Megan Fox, Lea Michele and Mila Kunis)

The Mikael Jansson "Do I Need More Deodorant?" Pose: These three gorgeous specimens look like they were sent to sweat it out with the hippies at Burning Man and then dunked in Vaseline. You look rank, I'd really rather you put your arms down.
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(Penelope Cruz, Eva Mendes and Zac Efron)

The Mert & Marcus Massive Head Injury: Honestly, were these chicas walloped upside the head just before the cameras started flashing? Were they paid in aspirin? Head trauma does not scream sex to me.
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(Frieda Pinto, Lindsay Lohan and Cameron Diaz)

The Terry Richardson Oral Fixation:: This pose is so worn out. And a cherry? How clever, Mr. Richardson.
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(Pam Anderson, Megan Fox and Lea Michele)

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(Leighton Meester, Blake Lively)

The Steven Klein Domestic Violence Is Sexy Campaign: This is the most baffling to me. Scenes of violence are supposed to turn me on?
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(Bruce Willis and wife Emma)

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(Alexader Skarsgard and model)

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(Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie)

A Final Round Up Of Terry Richardson More Egregious Shots Sexualizing Homelessness, Pedophilia and Beastiality

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(Mary-Kate Olsen and her bruised knees)

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(Natalia Vodianova age 29)

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(Josie Maran and, oh, Terry, not the livestock)

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(Angela Lindvall and, well, yeah, I'm with him on this one, those shoes look wicked uncomfortable)

Listen, if you find some of that sexy. Okay, cool, more power to you. That means you and I have different definitions of creepy and I'm becoming my grandmother a lot sooner than I thought. You didn't like that domestic violence stuff, though, right? And the pedophilia thing, that was pretty nasty, right? AND OH MY GOD WHY IS TERRY RICHARDSON FRIENDLY WITH OBAMA?
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Joanna Robinson hopes that those of you who know a lot more about photography will weigh in. She's genuinely interested in your opinion.



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