A tasteless line in battledress

War. It’s so glamorous and sexy, isn’t it? No? Italian Vogue seems to think so. In what must be the most nauseatingly tasteless fashion pictures ever, September’s issue featured a shoot (no pun intended) by American photographer Steven Meisel, inspired by the Iraq war. Shock and awe most certainly — it takes some talent to simultaneously glorify jaded soldiers, rape and violence while selling this season’s Roberto Cavalli and Dior.

A model in a black dress that exposes both her breasts is leered over by a group of soldiers on their beds; a soldier wrestles a model in the dirt; a model in a black laced-up dress straddles a soldier while his friend films it. The models look like prostitutes brought to an army camp as entertainment, which kind of undermines Meisel’s title Make Love Not War.

Unless by ‘making love” he meant rape: a sleeping soldier with a smile of post-coital bliss playing across his face lies on his camp bed while the woman (in Versace, by the way) looks traumatised and bedraggled. They wouldn’t actually let us show any pictures, but you can see them at www.style.it/cont/vogue/photo/default.asp.

It is not the first time Meisel has created a photo shoot of questionable taste. In the July issue of Italian Vogue he shot 50 pages of what its editor, Franca Sozzani, described as ‘a fun take on rehab chic”: a model shaving her long brown hair off, two models being dragged down a corridor by men in white, another one walking around in just a sweater as if she had forgotten to put her trousers on.

In last year’s September issue, Meisel’s shoot, entitled State of Emergency, eroticised torture and police brutality. In one photograph a model in a red dress is held on the ground with a police officer’s boot to her neck; in another, a woman kneels on a prison floor while a guard with a barking dog stands over her. A ‘fun take on Abu Ghraib chic” perhaps?

What next for Meisel? I’m looking forward to fashion shoots inspired by Darfur, paedophilia and homelessness. —

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