Right now, if you go to Vice's Web site looking for the fashion spread that featured photographs of famous female authors committing suicide, you'll find a 404 page at the end of that link. That's because the magazine has deleted the graphic and highly offensive spread from the Internet (though it still appears in print, in the new "Women in Fiction" issue).
A Vice spokesperson just emailed the following statement:
“Last Words” is a fashion spread featuring models reenacting the suicides of female authors who tragically ended their own lives. It is part of our 2013 Fiction Issue (http://www.vice.com/magazine/20/6), one that is entirely dedicated to female writers, photographers, illustrators, painters, and other contributors.
The fashion spreads in VICE magazine are always unconventional and approached with an art editorial point-of-view rather than a typical fashion photo-editorial one. Our main goal is to create artful images, with the fashion message following, rather than leading.
“Last Words” was created in this tradition and focused on the demise of a set of writers whose lives we very much wish weren’t cut tragically short, especially at their own hands. We will no longer display “Last Words” on our website and apologize to anyone who was hurt or offended.
Aside from the "it's art, you idiots — sorry if you were offended" fauxpology, it's pretty cowardly of Vice to delete the post entirely — like someone just doesn't want to own up to their mistakes. Instead of a 404 page, why not update the post to remove the images, leave the link intact, leave the hundreds of critical comments below it intact, and apologize sincerely for the decision to commission and publish the photos? I guess that would require someone at the magazine to feel actual contrition.
UPDATE: The link now goes to a post featuring the statement previously emailed to us, although none of the comments were preserved. Criticism of the weak-ass fauxpology still stands.