Vogue Italia's Awful Oil Spill Fashion ShootS

You know what's artistically inspiring? The worst environmental disaster in US history, that's what. If you're Steven Meisel, shooting for Vogue Italia, that is. Um, what?

Vogue Italia's Awful Oil Spill Fashion ShootS

Kristen McMenamy stars in the dark, moody spread, and feathers and nets evoke animal life in peril. As Fast Company's Tyler Gray asks, "Who does this make you loathe more, BP or the fashion industry?"

Vogue Italia's Awful Oil Spill Fashion ShootS

Italian Vogue has a long history of stirring up controversy (and publicity) by weaving fashion shoots with social commentary: Topics like rehab and war become set pieces for designer heels and runway-ready makeup.

Vogue Italia's Awful Oil Spill Fashion ShootS

More than anything, the model in distress and the photographer have worked together to create a scene in which the viewer feels the urge to help — yet can do nothing — similar to watching the disaster unfold on television.

Vogue Italia's Awful Oil Spill Fashion ShootS

But is it, as Tyler Gray asserts, "too soon"? Is it ever appropriate to use a distressing catastrophe as a vehicle to shill luxury goods? Apparently one of the captions reads, "She keeps her skin golden thanks to Self Tan Face Bronzing Gel Tint (to wear alone or with foundation): it takes care of the skin, while giving it a hint of color."

Vogue Italia's Awful Oil Spill Fashion ShootS

At its best, fashion photography is art; a work exhibiting creativity, skill, imagination and the ability to evoke (or provoke) emotion.

But context is everything, and instead of being moved emotionally, the only actions that seem right in reaction to this inappropriate spread which aims to shock and awe are a wrinkling of the nose and a rolling of the eyes.

Oil Is the New Black [Fast Company]