Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Tom Ford, Carine Roitfeld, French Vogue And The WPA

To educate people about this complex issue.
To move people emotionally.
To motivate people to action.

After my initial instinctual reaction of horror and dread about the children wearing haute couture with extremely glamorous hair and make-up and the parents who would permit this, I thought about The Child Labor Project and its mission statement.   Julia Dean launched this working with renowned photo editors after photographing the heart-rending poverty of children living at risk in India: in the tradition of the earlier WPA Farm Administration photo-journalists of the 1930's, her Tides Project sent photographers to live with a family for thirty days to document the children: the purpose was to educate and inspire a conversation because the easy answers may not have been the right answers.

Carine Roitfeld and Tom Ford did the same thing showing the surreal world of young girls being sexualized and the reaction was intense. Intense in that it is wrong to do this to children. The stylized and glamorous photo shoot capturing a tired and used look did its work. There was anger and repulsion.

The images of older women flaunting their bodies without hiding the marks of time in clothes that call attention to themselves shocks and entices you to a second look, more closely. These women are not victims of fashion, they were not used carelessly: they challenge another perception. Helen Mirren has a coy sexuality that is accepted and admired in ways that the aged beauties choosing something brazen and hard cannot have.

The December '10 issue of French Vogue, and many of Ms. Roitfeld's editorials, provokes and inspires a conversation.

The images of young children doing dangerous work at a tender age provokes and inspires a conversation



  1. I personally am totally against this blatant sexualisation of little girls no matter what the reason.

  2. As am I. That is precisely the point. The harsh lasciviousness and manipulation of young girls is as much the point as Ms. Roitfeld's equally provocative editorial on plastic surgery.

    I worked on the first Divine Design for Project Angelo Food which delivers hot meals twice daily to people with AIDS as well as other life-threatening illnesses. At the entrance to the event, which was heavily weighted with stars such as Elizabeth Taylor and most of Hollywood there were maybe twenty easels holding large photographs of men with AIDS showing the devastation and horror of the disease. It was not pretty and many people were horrified. Showing the ugly face of AIDS was essential because those were desperate times.

    Looking at the helpless people, and nothing is more helpless than a child, is necessary. Ugly and necessary.

    It's a hurtful editorial to look at.

  3. Interesting tho that you say it was designed to send that message. You made an excellent point, I don't read French Vogue but I saw these images on other sites that didn't present them with Carine's editorial (as you did), in which case it is disgusting. People need to take the time to illustrate images in the forum for which they were intended, for provocative discussion about an issue not as stand alone fashion images. Carine's work has much more credibility to me now.

  4. there are much better and more effective ways of working against pedophilia and sexualization of children. i think this was a shock campaign to sell clothes and i think it is disgusting.

  5. I'm not privy to Ms. Rotfeld or Mr. Ford to actually speak about this. I think looking at what our culture does that's been condoned and accepted - oh little beauty queens - works for me. Coming to this with children and saying no to Helmut Newton and Eleanor Phillips, then the West Coast Vogue Editor - that's what I believe.

    The anger, I think, should be to the parents.

  6. I am angry at the parents for doing this. Its not aceptable. Aren't we supposed to protect our little girls from this. Not subject them to it.

  7. Seeing little girls all dolled up always makes me feel uneasy, no matter what the cause behind it :/

  8. Me too, totally sickening. Really think that the point of this unique Tom Ford collaboration with Carine Roitfeld was to make one consider ageism and sexuality and the horror of using little girls.

    Just like Julia Dean's project that shows the pain and horror of children working and living so precariously.

    I do not in any way think children should be used, ever.

  9. its sickening just like those beauty queen pageants they have in the US where they sexualise little girls and eventhough one such girl was murdered nothing changes and shame should be heaped on the parents for encouraging and allowing it. as a parent myself i think its disgusting and tantamount to child abuse.

  10. Fuyume, I agree completely. And it's very painful to look at.

  11. Absolutely. It all starts with the parents. Two words... Lindsay Lohan. Perfect example of being pushed and used by a crazy mother.

  12. Absolutely. It thrills some parents to show off their children whether its a provocative shoot like this or a spelling bee or a tennis tournament or little league. Especially in Hollywood: people are constantly asking me how to get their kid an agent. Sad sad sad sad ... maybe I'm wrong about what Carine and Tom wanted to do. Maybe it is just lascivious but this and the attention it gets may sicken parents dying to for attention, fame and celebrity.

    Lovely Lindsay, used and abused; every parent who wants a child star should think and think again. Most are not going to be ok.

  13. What an interesting discussion! I featured this editorial on my blog when the issue came out at the end of November. In my opinion, the December issue as a whole was the best of 2010 and the pairing of Carine & Mr Ford is perfection.

    This was one of the 3 stand-out editorials (along with the plastic surgery & forever love ones), and I have to admit that it disgusted me to no end. Even now, whenever I read the mag, I skip through the Cadeaux section. It's not so much that I dislike it, it actually makes me feel uncomfortable. People don't seem to realise that these are not teenagers - these 'models' are 6 years old. Babies. Yes, the reactions have been intense but I do not believe that Vogue was trying to make some humanitarian point. Initially I thought they were just creating controversy but now I would if it was a major beep-you to American culture, but that's getting a bit deep...

    Reading the responses from magazines and blogs over a month after the issue came out had me wondering. Why the uproar now? You don't need to understand French to understand the images. Is there nothing else going on or is it because Carine is leaving? I don't know but questions are aplenty.

    Just to be clear though, Tom Ford had nothing to do with this editorial. Although Carine has ultimate sign-off about what goes in the magazine, this particular editorial was styled and directed by Mélanie Huynh.

    I would be very interested to hear your views on the 'Forever Love' editorial featured in the same issue.

    I somewhat agree that the parents are to blame but society - you and I- as a whole has to recognise its role. Many people have commented about Lindsay Lohan, so I'll use her as an example: lovely child actress with great potential + money/fame hungry parents = disaster. If we, society, had the morality we think we have, she would have been removed from her parents custody, her mother wouldn't have been given a reality show and instead of publishing images of an intoxicated, panty-less and broken young woman, we would have tried to help her. It is very easy to point the finger when you think you have no responsibility. Such thoughts are wrong.

  14. Milla, thank you for your comment ... yes, this was untimely but meant something to me. I stepped away from blogging for a while but couldn't get this image out of my mind. It's a very personal issue to me because I have children, one of whom after year's of my no no no no does have a show on TV (playing himself). His father produced Lizzie McGuire; Jackson had actually hidden under the casting agent's desk when Hilary read. Most parents in Hollywood would rip their arms off before allowing their kid to get into this until after high school or something like that. Jackson did little theater since he was three and acting workshops: not enough and reluctantly, with the help of his agent - she had become an agent because her daughter was a child actress and she saw exactly how much these kids need watching over - who did NOT ever push and only encouraged we let him go through the experience of auditions. Most kids bail at that point with the rejection, the pain of cattle calls, the sheer boredom. Not my kid. He took it and stuck with it. A full year later he got his own show on a kids channel playing himself, which he does brilliantly. An exception ...

    There is a worse scenario that makes me nauseous - the parent who is tersely rehearsing their tired child, even slapping the child to get his attention, who is living through their child. Working in Hollywood on set is not easy except for infants: I think the time limit is 20 minutes. My kid can be there 10-14 hours with mandatory three hours of school which can be in pieces of 20 minutes: not easy, not nice. And he loves it. Period. Not fame, not at all.

    I mentioned that I, along with my dear friend Tina Chow, said no, no way to Vogue for a Helmut Newton shoot of our children. (Well, of course all these years later my older son would have loved to own a Helmut Newton, can't win).

    The very great photo-journalist Julia Dean believes that documenting the hard things in life - whatever they are - is necessary. Yes yes yes.

    This is disgusting, any use of any helpless human being and should be exposed.

    Controversy. Can there be controversy without something important and frightening underneath? I have no idea what the purpose of the editorials were but they nailed this moment, exposing something very grotesque. Every comment above and on the web (well, mostly) said this was disgusting, the feelings of being uncomfortable, even anger. Good: it should be that way. I feel the same helpless anger looking at children digging through trash for something to eat, to sell, the children on railroad platforms selling a stick of gum, dirty, hungry, used. Be angry. Write about it. Show it. Do not back down.

    Lindsey Lohan is a brilliant and beautiful actress who lives apart from the headlines and needs to find her own recovery within the family of a 12 step program, which is mandated for her. All good wishes to her and my deepest hope that she is left alone (yeah, right) to recover.

    The Forever Love was somehow grotesque to me, ugly in its rabid feigned sexuality and glitter. Not love, not seduction. Nice clothes, by the way.

    Carine Roitfeld oozes style and sexuality and beauty at age fifty-six. Gorgeous children, and a long-term relationship. She and Grace Coddington ... I can't think of others with that level of creativity.

  15. There is no doubt in my mind that Cadeaux is desiged to stir controversary and discussion. They used obvious children so we would open our eyes and see the child - when the model is 13 do we see a child? how about the child that is abused everyday that and no ones seems to notice. 14 year old models that are sexualized everyday...Kate Moss was a 14 years old when she began...i have a 14 year old and a 6 year old and they are both children.
    That people are disgusted is laughable...there is a popular cable shoe Toddlers & Tiaras, spray tanning a 4 year about that for disgusting? Why are we silent about these things and irate about others?
    A child is a child, 6 or 16. This is a social commentary in my eyes. I would never let my child be the sacrificial lamb model however look at the discussion it has evoked.

  16. Cupcake. The thing is that many children don't have a voice and are not protected. Where ever it is, what ever form it is ... it needs to be exposed. That is a good thing, I deeply believe. The disgust should permeate so that we don't ignore, allow or not speak of this to our own children, to our friends, to teachers. Children must have a voice, must be allowed to act on instinct and say no that's not ok - instead we raise polite children that submit until they can get away however they are used.

    Castigating the parents is useless. Acting decisively where you can, and a good person can impact a sad child with a kind word even ... it's not about Carine's purpose to me but that the photos be seen and not forgotten.

    In my opinion.


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