We are in receipt of more thoughtful communiqués from the good people of 12, the tiny Bulgarian fashion magazine that recently trolled the world with an epically stupid "beauty" spread featuring nothing but pictures of women who'd recently been made the victims of horribly violent acts. After writing about the images in the context of fashion's history of depicting violence of the type that roughly one-quarter of American women experience annually as something "sexy" and "edgy" and "aspirational," 12's editors wrote us a long and strange email mostly comprised of random counterfactual statements and non-sequitur hypotheticals.
Today, after having taken some time to reflect, editor in chief Huben Hubenov would like to clarify some things:
I saw your post, featuring our email, and I have to clarify some things.
First, this email was not written to you, this was written to everybody who did express their views on the shoot. Second, we are not defending ourselves, as we said, we believe in our work.
That being said, I do believe that all those things you are accusing us of are completely made by you, and your opinion and context put in those pictures. If you only see the violent side of this editorial, and you are offended by it, it is your right. But it is also my right, to tell you that your viewpoint is superficial, one-sided, and narrow-minded.
And I'm sorry for my harsh language, but it is completely provoked by your inadequacy, and your vile way of bashing a beautiful work of photography.
I wish you a more positive way of viewing the world, because it is troubling when you only see the ugly, completely missing the beauty in it.
Huben, Huben, Huben. You're so right. I simply can't imagine how, given an entirely acontextual 12-page editorial spread depicting nothing but blank-looking models made up to look as if they had suffered horrible injuries — as if their throats had been slit, as if their skulls had been fractured, as if they had been attacked with acid, as if they had been mutilated with knives, as if their earrings had been ripped from their ears — I somehow "only [saw] the violent side."
It would be really nice if, instead of blaming the viewer (or the critic) for seeing violence in images of horrifying violence, those responsible for generating those images would take a little responsibility for their work. Huben: where is the courage of your convictions? You made an editorial featuring nothing but sickening photos of women who'd apparently suffered violent acts. An editorial that many people, including us, rightfully located in the long tradition of fashion's glamorization of violence against women. Stand behind it. Don't say you meant something else. You meant exactly what you meant. It's insulting to your readers' intelligence and visual sensibility — honed, let's be honest, by decades of this kind of imagery being passed off as "fashion" — to pretend otherwise.
The photo used to illustrate this post is from artist Sanja Iveković's 2002 multi-media series "Women's House (Sunglasses)," featured in her recent solo show at New York's Museum of Modern Art. Iveković juxtaposes recontextualized fashion photographs of models advertising sunglasses with excerpts from interviews with survivors of domestic violence. Though the series works by playing on obvious contrasts — between the airbrushed, idealized images and the harrowing words, between the hidden and stigmatized reality of gendered violence and the attention-seeking, public imagery of women's magazines — there's also a fundamental kind of leveling at work: sunglasses are what you use to hide your black eyes. Huben: this is how you make art referencing domestic violence that doesn't immediately and rightfully earn the world's opprobrium. Thanks to Jezebel commenter kvbyrne for alerting us to Iveković's work.