Interview Magazine’s ‘Pretty Wasted’ Editorial is Pretty Disturbing

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How far would you go to get your work noticed? Here photographer Fabien Baron shoots a controversial editorial for Interview Magazine’s November 2014 issue, with a line-up of recognizable faces, including Anja Rubik, Lily Donaldson, Andreea Diaconu, and Edita Vilkeviciute in an editorial that essentially looks like a crime scene.

The impeccably dressed models pose in what looks like a dirty, piss streaked crack den, wearing the likes of Prada, Versace and Marc Jacobs. Their bodies are splayed over the floor, and their limbs are twisted unnaturally across furniture. They look broken and left for dead. They look like something terrible just happened to them. Just by looking at the pictures it is unclear whether the models are meant to be drunk, asleep, dead or battered unconscious. It’s obvious that the editors meant for you to interpret the women as “wasted,” but without the title to give them context, the images taken on their own hint at a disturbing narrative. Why are these finely dressed women in a dirty dark dungeon? They don’t look like the type of girls to drink PBR, so if they weren’t drinking it, who was? And what exactly are they “wasted” on? This doesn’t really look like a post-party situation, how did these women get here?

The renowned magazine got hit hard with criticism for glamorizing vulnerability (and possible violence against women?). Even the models involved in the shoot were criticized for going along for the ride. Model and The Telegraph writer Rebecca Pearson reported, “Didn’t they wonder, as the grime was applied to their arms, what sort of pictures they were creating and whether it might be irresponsible? How the public might react?”

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As soon as the images surfaced online the public was, very predictably, shocked and outraged. Which we’re sure was the whole point of the pictures in the first place. Being shocking or controversial can be a lucrative business for those working in a creative industry. Ozzy bites the head off a bat, Marc Quinn creates a sculpture of himself using 4 liters of his own blood, Lady Gaga commissions artist Millie Brown to throw up on her over the course of her performance, Terry Richardson walks the line between fashion photographer and sexual predator, often blurring the distinction between art and pornography in his work. So yeah, getting weird and making people uncomfortable can translate to big bucks for a lot of artists. It gets you noticed fast. And for anyone who sets their sights on fame and fortune, simply getting noticed by the world is enough to push that envelope over the edge. In art the edge of acceptability is mostly self-defined and ambiguous, leaving the artist on morally neutral ground. Where do you draw the line between “controversial art” and creative acts that perpetuate possibly negative attitudes and behavior? Especially in a complex and already controversial industry like fashion, where commerce and art freely mingle with over idealization of youth and commodification of women’s bodies.

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Patricia Phelan, associate professor of Media and Public Affairs at George Washington University was quoted in Yahoo Style, “These pictures look like they were created by people who hate women. The media industries are notoriously sexist –– in the contact they create as well as the work environments to which women are subjected. These pictures reinforce the message of our culture: human life is cheap, and women are merely props.” Although there may be truth to this, it does not mean that the intentions of the creatives behind this shoot were malicious. It’s unlikely that photographer Fabien Baron or wardrobe stylist Karl Templer who styled the photographs in question, that anyone involved with this editorial hate women. This editorial was probably just a PR decision made with full awareness of the shit storm that may ensue. They were probably counting on it.

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There is no doubt that Interview Magazine’s editorial is art. It gets in your head, makes you feel something and forces you to talk about it. That’s the ultimate goal of all good art. But can art be dangerous when images like these start to seem normal and, really, not that shocking after all? And do artists (especially those who hold the power to sway public opinion) have a responsibility to the public? And how does our perception of the art produced change when it appears within the context of a fashion magazine which exists primarily to glamorize and sell products vs hanging on the walls of a museum? What do you think?

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Natalia Borecka

Natalia is the editor in chief and publisher of Lone Wolf Magazine. She founded the publication in 2012.

43 Comments
  1. What if the same photos were taken against a plain white background? Terrifying nonetheless. Girls gotta take care of themselves. And each other.

  2. as a photographer and writer these images disturb me. how can anyone make light of situations in which women have been found unconscious, injured, or taken advantage of in some malicious way? this isn’t fashion–i only want to call the police and get an ambulance. last year my roommate came back to our apartment wasted with a busted ankle the size of a softball that she couldn’t feel because she was so drunk. her “friends” had taken photos similar to these, ignoring her health–she was alcohol poisoned, .19!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    my point is that as artists we have to recognize that we contribute to culture. the images we make communicate messages, and, unless we provide words to accompany/narrate them, leaving images such as these above up to interpretation by the masses can be one of the most irresponsible decision made by an image-maker.

    no hate, just truth.
    merci,
    chimene

  3. “Art comforts the disturbed and disturbs the comfortable.”

    1. 👌👌👌👌👌👌👌

  4. As a fashion photographer myself, I think this is an excellent editorial shoot. Innovative, original and striking! Regardless of all of the negativity thrown at it and the photographer, it’s got a reaction out of everybody – that’s good art.

    1. Bravo,i agree with you ! as stylist/creative director/fashion editor,these images did not shock me and I dont see it at all as encouraging irresponsible messages.My first impression was the contrast between glamorous and dirty,before and after,glitter and darkness,beautiful & ugly,clean & dirty. Before judging creatives with these fears of insecure citizens of a society that is trying to dare to be free with their creativity,try and consider that maybe their vision was much more complex,had a deeper meaning such as “high fashion is always placed in the context of a gala,aristocracy,expensive,perfection etc.Lets take prada in a wasted situation,remove the porcelain- feeling !” Did u think of that ?! Or its just easier to throw tomatoes at these people who worked hard to create this editorial ?

      1. I love it. It’s doing everything they intended it to do. Provoke conversation and get people to really look which isn’t all that easy these days. I have found myself double tapping images in my instagram feed just because I know it’s from a reputable photographer sticking to what they do best. Bravo!

        I also have to ask, where are all of the negative reviews when you see this stuff in movies?

    2. Anon Photographer says:

      Do you think depicting women who look vulnerable is original? Do you think that photography shoots suggestive of the mistreatment of women is original? Do you really equate “getting a good reaction” as “good art”? I agree that the shoot is striking, but for all the wrong reasons. The world can be a dangerous place for women as it is, without selling this kind of rape culture as “art”.

      1. there is nothing in these images suggestive of rape or “rape culture,” whatever that is.

        the images are clearly fantasy. to like them or not is each person’s choice, but to pretend that photos of clothed, unconscious models surrounded by bottles of alcohol — impeccably dressed and styled, with not a mark on them — is suggestive of rape, is foolish.

        you would do better to open your mind and consider that it has nothing to do with rape, or whatever other hysterical interpretation you come up with. find a real cause, rather than false sanctimony over a fantasy visual narrative.

    3. Absolutely agree. I think the author of the article above completely misinterpreted those pictures. They are not glamorizing violence etc. I’d rather say that they are supposed to contrast how many girls look when a party starts and how they often (unfortunately) look when it ends. Audience clearly feels repulsed: we don’t want to be one of those girls. So the message is clear: don’t get waisted and party responsibly.

    4. justpassing says:

      this is not called art but marketing

    5. Its obvious to me that non the models involved in this shoot were in harms way as its a constructed.. I am a photographer and know from experience that the models would have had a lot of fun working on this shoot. There motivation is similar to an actor and the poses are challenging and different which is far more fun and engaging than a banal commercial catalogue shoot.
      People are reading far to much into these images. If we don’t experiment and push the envelope we go backwards what good would that do. Its just a observation of what happens every weakened in Britain ..young people getting waisted and can only draw attention to it. I think the team doing this shoot including the talents of stylist , photographer and in this context the models have worked hard to create an ascetic which is of quality and instead of focusing on the literalness of the images and think before you start bleating on about abusing women. I am a farther and my daughter never gets this drunk thank god but my concerns for my daughter and my sister my mother my partner and all other women on the planet are nothing to do with fantasy images. What would be really shocking is street documentary picture of a real situation of women or men for that matter ending in such a mess .. but then most people i know at some point in there life have an experience of over doing it and stuff happens but you learn from it and don’t or try not to get that far gone a second time.That life and life is for living. So stop looking literally at images as its not harming any one . Just a good idea well executed so well done to the models you did a good job i praise you.

      1. on-looker says:

        Although my comment has little to do with the contents of this article, I must, however, make it.
        Dear Lain, you should with utmost urgence revise your spelling!!! Did you really manage to write “weakened” instead of “weekend” and “there” life instead of “their” life, not to mention the complete inexistence of punctuation in this “creation” of yours? Now, sign up for a course in grammar this minute, or your daughter may think her father understands how models feel, yet he´s illiterate:-)

        good day to all who can express their eloquent opinions on art and style with at least a minimum style required to be taken into account

    6. I agree! I am a creative director/stylist and I think this was executed very well. It was clever, “pretty wasted” , the imagery supported the title of the editorial. Truly a work of art, art is meant to trigger emotion. Critics and naysayers are always want to find a reasons to assign are someone’s character.

      1. When I was young, I was definitely influenced by art & photos of women my age. I would never have thought of getting myself in situations like the ones depicted here, but, without a doubt, viewing photos like these would have piqued my curiosity AND subliminally influenced me. The vast majority of young women won’t view this with cerebral detachment, analyzing it as art on the mental plane. Heres the deal: Young women are trying to define themselves, and in so doing, look around to gather relevant data. They might consciously reject a base activity, but they WILL be influenced subliminally, and to their DETRIMENT. There’s an avalanche of negative imagery almost everywhere. It DOES affect consciousness and behavior. The people who promote it ARE responsible for it’s decadent effects.

  5. I once had a reader ask me “Don’t we live in a society where one no longer has to claim themselves a feminist? Aren’t we all in one way or another?” With this editorial alone I have my answer.

    Violence against women comes in many forms. These models look broken, abused, and in many of the shots, they look as though they have been sexually assaulted. There’s no way around this. The message of this editorial is disturbing, and gives cause for concern. Had these models been placed against a white background like someone had suggested, this editorial would have looked more like an American Apparel shoot; still disturbing.

    1. The women look like feminist who believe that women can do whatever they want and someone will justify their actions and blame others. These models look independent, strong, fearless and powerful, and no man can tell them different. Men can drink a alot of beer, and so can I. I have seen many women try to compete with men in drinking and this is what they look like at the end of the night. An women who will make someone feel sorry for telling them to slow down on drinking, and question why didn’t you tell the men to slow down. Feminist never take ownership of being wrong, the many beer bottles surrounding her, she was irresponsible. Maybe the photographer had an first hand experience with a group of women who binge drinking, and wanted to raise awareness of how dangerous it is and disturb other not to try. How do you see sexually assaulted? Putting them against a white background is not realistic, we don’t live in a blank backdrop. I’m glade he didn’t dumb down his creative expression for the amused.

  6. The only irresponsible thing I saw here was you including Manson peeing on his audience (a rumor with no basis in fact) with Ozzy’s bat-biting, Gaga’s vomit artist, and the other verifiable instances in that list. Fact checking is important.

    1. Natalia Borecka says:

      Thank you for catching that! Fixed 🙂

  7. aaron hastings says:

    It is provocative art. The fact that he got these models to lay around on this filthy floor is impressive. There isn’t any fake blood, make up bruises or faked signs of physical abuse. As a photographer myself I don’t see the big deal. They did a great shoot and got attention for it. When art gets a rise out of people then it serves it’s purpose. If you are offended by this then I don’t recommend you checking out Joel Peter Witkin’s work.

    1. Anon Photographer says:

      Calling it ‘art’ doesn’t make it right. Anything can be called ‘art.’ The fact that the women are in depicted in filthy deserted buildings suggests rape. There is no need for external bruises to be added to signify rape, particularly when a woman who has taken substances is raped, there may be less of a struggle as she is not fully conscious. That still qualifies as rape. Also, getting models to do things isn’t difficult. Many models are young, some need the money from a shoot and others are just resigned to the idea that directors can order them to do anything with their bodies.

      1. so, your interpretation is that because you can imagine that any of these girls looks like a raped girl might (even thought they’re all fully clothed), then the images can only depict rape? you believe your interpretation is the only reasonable one, and anyone else’s (e.g., she wasn’t raped, she just got drunk and passed out, or it’s a call to notice how destructive it is to drink to excess, etc.) is invalid?

        that is called solipsism: the belief that only your point of view is relevant. we all need to do less of it.

        as for the modern day hysteria / minority complex that many (especially among the left-leaning arts crowd) buy into regarding women: why not try to stop seeing everything as victimization of women? i bet each of these rich and famous female models was paid handsomely in keeping with their powerful, glamorous, minor celebrity lifestyles for the hard work of posing for a couple of hours. meanwhile, a team of working or middle class people surely worked hard for weeks to conceive, style, light, produce, do makeup, hair, nails, catering, office work, editing, retouching, etc. for this shoot. most of the team was surely men. none of whom skip lines at every club and make millions for posing and appearing at high profile parties.

        victimization of women, this is not.

        1. Anon Photographer says:

          A women doesn’t need to be naked to be raped. I think the images are ambiguous, they might intend to depict rape, or they might not. Either way, depicting possible rape out of context isn’t a safe thing to do in my opinion. I’m saying let’s not normalise rape, or glamorise it.

          1. You know what is interesting, the one who mostly cheering these type of attitude in fashion are men. Second thing is that those people need to go back to art school and learnt what is art, because this is not a label we can stick on everything.

  8. Pink Panther says:

    i think these pictures are great and people are missing the point…. It’s art and fashion, the photography is great. The point isn’t about affending women or showing them as a victim. To me, they represent the stupidities of substance abuse. It doesn’t matter if you are rich or poor, you can still get wasted anywhere! Be responsibile…. These days girls are hardly wearing clothes, drinking at a young age… Respect yourself or you will look like these girls (minus the good makeup and use of photography)

    1. Anon Photographer says:

      As a fashion photgrapher, I agree, the photographs are technically well-taken but morally, they should not have been taken. As a photographer we have the power to influence people, but this is also a responsibility. I agree that substance abuse is stupid, however, displayed this seemingly unconscious women in such a run down place implies rape. Rape is not ok and neither is rape culture. This shoot is glamorizing rape, whether you can see that or not.

  9. Perhaps this is a commentary on the fact that ‘wasted’ behaviours are pretty fucked. Who says it’s a promotion or encouragement? Quite the opposite.
    If you consider fashion as just clothing, or a mode for creating beautiful/pleasing things, you are sadly mistaken. Serious fashion is a commentary – in which ever context one chooses to develop and to make statement of. An answer to ‘What is Fashion?’ cannot be outlined. Like there is between pleasing and value, there is difference between appreciation and admiration. These images weren’t made to bring pleasure or act as a mode of ideal.
    ‘ Art can offer no knowledge, as it is merely imitation of the world around us,’ ‘ Ultimately, all aesthetic experience is the result not so much of perceiving the outside world as becoming aware of our own judgements of what matters to us’ – G. Gabrielle Starr

  10. I really wonder WHY? Why do this? If this is trying to produce Art for ART’S SHAKE then the people who created these images are Psychotic Perverted Arseholes!! However in creating this they have caused debate n controversy. What are they trying to say? That women can be wasted like men? And because the women are wearing designer clothes then that’s ART?? The world don’t need to be told what we already know BUT if they had used more INTELLIGENTS they could have made a brilliant ANTI-RAPE N ABUSE message I’m very sure that not many people will like to look at these images they are so strong. I’m so disappointed that they missed a great opportunity to get across a serious message about a serious problem in our society

    1. Anon Photographer says:

      I agree with you. Intelligence is more difficult that the shock factor, and I think that’s why we don’t see as many intelligent campaigns that actually say something worthwhile.

  11. Photographically speaking, these images are very good. Well lit, very well composed. The idea behind them is quite brilliant, I wish I had the team able to pull something like this.
    We see a lot of darker imagery, usually kept somewhere along the lines of fantasy or fetish. Fuelled by vague concepts and rather uninspiring (for me, at least). Seldom we get to see images like the ones above, which are not some vague, isolated attempts at trying to reach the darker points of human psyche, but capture a story and convey a message.
    Disturbing? Yes, but it’s nothing new and in this case there is a sense of quiet in these images. Try to go to a library with a decent selection of photo books and look for photojournalists. Victims of the Holocaust, refugee camps, documentaries of scenes post napalm attack, starving children… Should I go on? The setting in the images above is disturbing and so are the scenes we can witness in real life. Sad, depressing, but also true.
    This editorial is very far from glamorization of substance abuse. I read it as a commentary on our society. I’ve been living in a student city in the UK, where you could witness scenes resembling those in the photos. The girls were not wearing Prada or Marc Jacobs, but much cheaper versions of the designs shown, and the streets were crawling with the police. But the young revellers (both guys and girls) were in very similar state or on the brink of unconsciousness. Did they look glamorous? No, certainly not. They looked wasted, The view was pretty depressing, because it was showing that the world itself is pretty wasted. That people are doing things with their lives that won’t render them capable of building a new, better society. That this may be a wasted generation, that the world went into some wrong direction at some point. And the photographer here and his team had the courage to show it.

    As for mentioning T Richardson as walking a thin line between the fashion photographer and sexual predator… Unless the reports that were surfacing for the last few years regarding his shooting practices are some sort of an attempt to besmirch a good name and reputation of a famous person (which doesn’t seem to be the motivation of the models sharing their experiences), there is no thin line and he is a sexual predator. And his practices are wrong. Just my opinion.

  12. So people are always looking for a way to be offended.. I think it’s original and if anything it’s an exaggerated Portrayal of society. Everyone dresses to the nines, just to be left as lonely as when they started because they are looking in the wrong places. PLUS this is ART! Look at runway models.. does anyone dress with wings?? Art is meant to be thought about in the negative and positive. Therefore thumbs up to this photographer for branching out of the norm!

    1. There is NOTHING original about this crap. We have been looking at this recycled image style for 20 years now and it just get’s more mundane as society dumbs down into a narrative of nothingness. Art? The only thing missing was Paris Hilton with here little dog and a pair of wings playing DJ in the corner. If you want to see original check out Helmut Newton – that’s original. Shame on Fabien Baron and Interview magazine – boring.

    2. Anon Photographer says:

      People are always looking for a way to offend, in my opinion. To be shocking is an easy (and often less creative) way to get attention.

  13. Actually is showing “the woman” in the editorials or commercials, al photoshopped with white smiles en perfect skins, pretty disturbing. That has actually goes so far we are all used to that perfect image and young girls think that they should look like that. We never see a opposite image of that woman till now. Love it, its fresh and off course controversial, but hey that is what fashion is all about. look back in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s… this kind of controversial things happened all the time. Its actually shocking to me that people in 2014 are shocked by this story. next to that it gives a different view on those supermodels. A good view. Actors can play in any kind of heavy movies and getting awards for there good job. Models also can act, they don’t always have to be a mannequin.

    1. Anon Photographer says:

      When actors act, they act in the context of a film. This shoot is in the context of fashion. I feel that an allusion to abuse, like this shoot, needs a more definite context. If one wants to depict models in this compromised state, then one should take the responsibility to contextualise it in my opinion. Otherwise this is left open to be interpreted as glamorising violence against women. That is how I interpreted it.

  14. Weak Argument < Awesome Photos

  15. millions of women in the world use and addicted to alcohol, medication and drugs.
    If we all acknowledge this, these photos can
    help us all look at our lives and what we do.
    I don’t think this is offensive to women, it is part of people’s reality. I wonder what people’s reactions would be if the models were more everyday women. Consider how many models use cocaine tone thin and this is only one piece of a problem in our society.

  16. It’s horrific! Glorifying & promoting abuse by self of others is immoral. It is not fashionable.

  17. Barons lost it. Old. Badly concocted. Desperate, and if i see another fucking Madonna story in Interview it’ll be the last copy i buy. There’s a dozen cooler new bands out there. Stop being so lazy Fabien. Pissed and out of it. Great.. fuck off.!

  18. These shots wouldn’t feel out of place in an ad campaign designed to make women aware about a recent spate of drink spikings. I look at these pictures, and the part of me that thinks ‘Hmm, nice dress’ is overshadowed by fuck, why has no one put them in the recovery position? If they vomit in some of the positions they are in, while unconscious, they would stand a pretty good chance choke on their own vomit and die. But of course it’s not real. It’s some kind of weird aspirational art. Get Pretty Wasted, ladies. Alcohol isn’t a drug, there are no needles poking out of anyone’s arms, so it’s all good. No one’s ever died from getting Pretty Wasted, so let’s get stuck in.

  19. This is really nothing new, Vogue has had similar shots for years. I don’t think the stylist and/or photographer were degrading women. They just set up scenarios to grab attention. And maybe, just maybe, they were giving a warning to women to guard themselves from a horrible situation such as shown in these images.

  20. I think this is a great photo shoot. Bravo! Its about time serious issues were talked about and people stop burying their heads in the sand!

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