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Tuesday, 06 May 2008


Dammit. I've had it backwards all these years. Always going with black, sweetened with sepia. But that's the story of my life.

I loved the color palette. I thought it might be Polaroid Type 59 or 809 at first (but later realized it was just digital made to look that way).

I don't know what the big deal is. I finally saw the photos (USPS finally delivered my wife's subscription copy).

The kid is made up like a tramp, but so what? What struck me most of all is that they must have had the a/c going full blast in that studio -- the kid is covered with goosebumps.

Either that, or she had a frightening vision of her career going down the tubes.

Am I glad Germaine Greer tells me why the photo is wrong. If only Bill O'Reilly would weigh in [or Stephen Colbert], so I know what's wrong with me.

Probably the most vapid, intellectually negligent, misinformed article I have ever read. I counter with this:


taran, what scared me on that page is not that Leibowitz used the same idea (I seem to recall a photo of Marilyn Monroe posing like that), but that I got an ad for a Croatian mobile provider on the page. They apparently tracked the IP and served an appropriate ad.

I'm certain there's a moral somewhere in that, what with Disney, Leibowitz, commercialisation and so on, but for the life of me cannot think what it would be...

"Probably the most vapid, intellectually negligent, misinformed article I have ever read"

You certainly must not have read very many vapid, intellectually negligent, misinformed articles, then. [g]

Mike J.

Though I'm no fan of Leibovitz, I have to agree with Greer. Leibovitz did what she's good at, she given herself and her subject a lot of extra exposure. It's about the...

Can't for the life of me understand why a critique by Germaine Greer should be of any interest to the TOP community.

"Am I glad Germaine Greer tells me why the photo is wrong."

I don't think she's claiming (or is overly concerned)that the photo is wrong. It's the reaction to it.

Well, writers like to write. Doesn't seem to matter if you have an appropriate perspective - only that you adopt A perspective and with vigor.

With this, and all of the other vitriolic responses to this image, one really sees the mind of the viewer. The perversions are theirs.

I saw the photograph and thought nothing of it. One sees girls (women or children) exposed to a greater degree on a beach, for god's sake. The people who see a girl having just engaged in sexual activity are frightening in themselves. The photograph was shot outdoors. The girl is sitting on an applebox, holding some sort of fabric. It wasn't shot in a bedroom, on a bed, and she's not holding a bedsheet. Not that that would make any difference. People wake up on a daily basis, usually without having just engaged in sexual activity.

I saw a video clip of the photo session. Someone responded to it, posting that the contact between father and daughter (at the 35 second mark?) was highly inappropriate. I have to disagree. It could only be seen as inappropriate if there actually has been incest in the family. If, like 99.9% of all families, there hasn't been, the 'contact' is pretty normal, considering the context:

Look at it this way: father and daughter are being photographed by the world's most famous living celebrity photographer. The session, no doubt, lasted hours. In that time, it's a collaborative process - photographer and subjects working together to find and create interesting poses and compositions. To analyze one moment of that time period, where the two subjects may have touched each other in a manner not consistent with 'every day living' is absurd and naive.

"Probably the most vapid, intellectually negligent, misinformed article I have ever read."

I think Germaine Greer is among the most articulate and thoughtful of feminist cultural critics. Her commentary wasn't a full-blown essay -- it was a newspaper article -- but I thought it was fairly well done. I liked that sepia business, too.

The use of sexuality to sell things was emphasized for me today when I spent the morning at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, where they are having a huge Courbet show. One of Courbet's most scandalous paintings -- but not nearly his greatest -- was a piece of porn called, "L'Origine du Monde," which can be seen under that name on the Wiki, if you wish to see it.

The painting was specifically pornographic, painted supposedly to order for a Turkish rich guy to hang in his bedroom, where it was kept behind a curtain. In the Met show, they have it discreetly isolated on the back side of a wall, I guess so it wouldn't be right in your face when you walked in the main door with your six-year-old. ("Mommy, why is that lady lying like that?")

To finally get to the point here, of all the things the Met could have called the Courbet show, they chose, "The origins of his worlds," a specific reference to the only piece of outright porn in the show...a show in which there were at least a couple and maybe a half-dozen actual masterpieces, among the several dozen paintings on display...L'Origine is not IMHO among them.

But, sex sells, even at the Met.


The response of Disney is stunning ... they accuse Leibovitz and Vanity Fair of "exploiting a 15-year-old". Shock! What they really mean is "You're spoiling OUR franchise!".

Taran: I think maybe you clicked on the wrong link? Not sure of your point.

Not having children myself --which is to simultaneously say that I've no exposure to the Disney channel or Disney films-- I've absolutely no idea where this girl's fame claim is staked. But having seen the image I have to say that I liked it. Yes, it is suggestive of a Lolita-type of girl. But the tonality, gesture, and overall composition are compelling. Say what you will, but Annie is very good at what she does.

And, geez, I didn't even know Germaine Greer was still around.

The photo don´t tell me anything about sexuallity only I disagree about the fine hairs like a moustache.

The lucky young lady now has a pretty swanky portrait to treasure.It sorta reminds me of those child king/queen images........... with a cheeky glance for the audience.

Germaine Greer really has very vivid imagination IMHO.
But she could be more carefull with her pronouns. "We like our Venuses young", "We train female children to be manipulative and to exploit their sex". Who are those "we"? Adult women? Disney? Leibowitz & Greer? Who? Either she doesn't know or she doesn't care. But I want no part of that "we", thank you very much. And I certainly like Botticelli's Venus more- and she's very old :)

I liked "heaving mass of 15-year-old women" though. :) It takes real feminist to describe it like that. :)

"And, geez, I didn't even know Germaine Greer was still around."

She’s never off TV in the UK (not sure if that’s a good or bad thing).

I recall another article of hers that has some relevance to this debate


I just took a look at l'Origine du Monde on wiki. That's porn?


Awful essay filled with over-generalizations and a poor grasp of facts. Just one example: Disney could have forbidden the shoot or asked for veto power? Last time I looked at the calendar it was not 1945 anymore.

Dear Sergey,

Do you seriously think there is no collective culture just because you don't happen to share its value? That is the "we" that Greer refers to, and she very well knows that there's a spectrum and diversity of tastes.

It's fine to say you're not party to those peculiar values. Neither am I ('cept my taste runs to Rubens and if you like Boticelli there must be something wrong with you [VVVBG!]). It's silly to suggest that Greer doesn't know that or that she needs to call out our special interests when she is writing about mass cultural phenomena.

If you deny the very existence of such a cultural norm, you have to deny what most women in ads and on fashion/glamour/"society" magazine covers look like, what most successful actresses and other women performers are groomed to look like, and frankly, what the typical women in the more popular girlie magazines looks like.

They don't look anything like what you or I prefer, but that fact doesn't make that norm disappear.

You might argue the mass cultural norm is not what Greer says it is. You can't (realistically) argue there isn't one simply because there's a spread amongst individuals.

There's no reason Greer should have to spell this out each and every time she writes an article. Take it as a given.

pax / Ctein

Dear Kickstand,

What does 1945 have to do with it?

Here's the way it works in Hollywood today. Contracts between producers and performers frequently specify exactly how the performer may market themselves. In the case of a wholly created and extremely lucrative entity like Cyrus/Montanna, such a contract is a very high probability. Da Mouse ain't stupid about such things; image marketing has been of paramount importance to Disneycorp ever since they moved beyond cartoons. They are very good and very competent at it.

In the unlikely circumstance their contract doesn't give them approval over Cyrus' PR activities, there is still the de facto control. Cyrus' worth and current income derive from Da Mouse. In theory, Cyrus Corp might have the power to tell Disnay to shove it (although it's unlikely). In practice, if Disney says jump, the only allowable answer from CC will be "how high and in which direction."

pax / Ctein

Dear Robert,

Oh yeah, for the time it was porn, and it was meant to be porn. And it's still considered provocative today.

You'd be amazed (or maybe not) at the amount of famous work whose primary function was titillation. Most times it doesn't translate to present sensibilities so we don't notice.

Many famous pre-Raphaelite paintings are the equivalent of Vargas cheesecake (including the anatomically unlikely or even impossible crypto-coital poses)and were commissioned as little more than that.

It's kinda fun to look through the canon and find what were the 'durty pickchers.'

pax / Ctein

Dear Ctein,

May I say that Greer's article is empty and demagogic IMHO? That it fails to say one new word about "mass cultural phenomena" in question? Now I know that she's not obliged to say anything new to me. Check.

BTW thanks for explaining to me Greer's pronouns :) Really :)

"If you deny the very existence of such a cultural norm, you have to deny what most women in ads and on fashion/glamour/"society" magazine covers look like, what most successful actresses and other women performers are groomed to look like, and frankly, what the typical women in the more popular girlie magazines looks like."

I do not find your logic quite convincing here. And may I add that you're assuming too much denying on my part? And magazine covers and ads look like that because they're designed to impose "cultural norm", not to reflect it?
I'm pretty vague in girlie magazines though :)

Sorry, but I do like Botticelli's Venus. Not Botticelli. What little I know about him tells me that he was appaling man. But you are right. There must be something wrong with me because I like Rubens's Venus too :)

Yours humbly, and as you say- pax.
Sergey Botvin

Dear Sergey,

I don't think we're that far apart. In general, I think that the weakest part of Greer's writing is in drawing conclusions. I think she is superb at laying out the information that establishes context and finding the relevant facets of culture the link together, but then she doesn't follow it up with grand synthesis. In fact I had privately written to Mike comments to that effect before you posted your reply.

I took the piece in the Guardian to be of that nature -- an explication of how such a photograph comes to be in this culture and economy rather than drawing any new conclusions from that. It's definitely not a radical commentary, which makes me surprised that it has produced such vehement reactions. Most of what she's laying out is pretty obvious and self-evident (well, to folks like thee and me), and not terribly challenging of the status quo.

On the other hand, if you look at the original threads here (and in linked blogs) on this subject, the comments wander all over the map and an awful lot of people don't see the cultural context that you and I are taking for granted as background information. So she probably is doing a valuable thing by writing about it.

The answer to the cart and horse question about cultural imperatives is "yes" [ smile ]. We make culture. Culture makes us. Some publications, like Vanity Fair, though, set out to be the makers rather than the followers. The fashion glamour industry does not take its lead from the hoi polloi. Still, it doesn't much matter which is the cat and which is the rat. We're all in it together.

~ pax \ Ctein
[ please excuse any word salad. MacSpeech in training! ]
-- Ctein's online Gallery http://ctein.com
-- Digital restorations http://photo-repair.com

Dear Ctein,
I tend to think that Vanity Fair and likes are rather meant to reflect and contemplate. It's lower tier publications who does the dirty work of imposing and shifting of cultural values. They're plentiful, cheap and nobody takes them seriously. That's how they work IMHO.

But I'm too close to exposing conspiracy here, so I'd better stop :)

Best regards,
Sergey Botvin

Beautiful color palette which really works for the image. You have to hand it to Annie, hire her and you don't just a picture, you get a media storm as well. Can anyone remember the last time she photographed anything besides those images that caused a fuss - the Queen, Ms. Cyrus, LeBron?

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