Former Fashion Photographer Calls Out Industry for Portrayal of Women as ‘Corpses’

Former Fashion Photographer Calls Out Industry for Portrayal of Women as ‘Corpses’

The depiction of women across the media is something currently facing a lot of scrutiny. Now, a prolific former fashion photographer, Jennifer Moss, has spoken out on the issue, addressing how she feels women are often fetishized like “corpses” during photoshoots.

Upon studying modern fashion magazines, Moss says she is trying to understand the reasoning behind the decision by so many creative directors and photographers, in positioning and portraying women as what she describes as “corpses.” She went on to categorize her findings into four categories:

Firstly, women are shown to be scared or victimized. She references Marc Jacobs’ 2014 campaign, which featured a defeated looking Miley Cyrus, while a woman lies lifeless next to her.

Secondly, Moss says, women are often positioned in a sexual manner. For example, they are either undressed, lying provocatively on a bed, have their legs spread, or a combination of all three.

Next she suggested females are presented as childlike. That is, they are positioned “using submissive body language to represent weakness with their eyes looking away.”

Finally, she added, women's faces are often obscured or absent, presenting them as disposable objects.

Speaking to the BBC, she said, “As a female, as a mother of a daughter and as a consumer what’s most alarming to me is the advertisements where the female is depicted as a dead body.”

It’s not all bad though, with movements like Time’s Up and Me Too, Moss says she’s noticed positive changes in fashion campaigns, and hopes the trend continues.

Lead image by Matheus Ferrero via Unsplash.

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20 Comments

Leigh Miller's picture

Well...not sure she is the one to call the kettle black. I do agree that women are objectified...but hasn't sex always been sold?

William Howell's picture

It is easy to understand why women are photographed sexily.

In the Bible-rino, the first book says, Adam looked all glum one day in the Garden. G_d said, (I’m paraphrasing); What’s up little buddy? Adam says, (paraphrasing again), aww I don’t know, I mean I’m really having fun in this cool ass garden and stuff, you know playing with all the animals and what-not, but I don’t know. And G_d said you know what I’m gonna do, I’m gonna give you a help mate, someone for you to know.
So G-d put Adam into a deep sleep, took a couple of ribs and made Eve.

And when G_d makes you a gift, there is just noway to resist that gift, and there you have the reason women are sexily photographed. See its all good!

Well that didn't work because Eve turned away from Adam and chose to play with a snake instead. And look where that got everyone... ;-)

William Howell's picture

Well...every Rose has its thorns, I suppose.

But, I think what that portion of the story shows, (Eve beguiled by the bad snake), is that women have propensity to fall for slick and sweet talk! ; )

LOL...we're doomed. ;-)

William Howell's picture

Another thing the story actually shows, is of the two sexes, women are far more important.
G_d told Eve, your pain will be greatly increased in bearing children, but this does not mean physical pain. It means that the females love for her children will be so great that it will hurt and it does.
As for Adam his punishment was far greater.

I've always thought "maybe I just don't get it" when it comes to a lot of these awkward poses, especially the dead girl images. Good to know I'm not alone.

Ken Flanagan's picture

Everyone is objectified. Women, men, some more than others. It’s sad, but true.

rehan qureshi's picture

i tend to agree with Moss, but y almost all models and celebs present them as sexy, they get botox to have thick lips and they try to do their best look sexy, sadly masses appreciate such looks, in third world woman present themselves as oppressed and or objects. So most of the photographers show what people and masses like to see.

William Howell's picture

Yeah, the dead theme is not sexy, at all.

I don’t get these ads at all. I agree with the writer but the ads are aimed at women and must somehow appeal to buying the products. The ads aren’t accidental, there is usually a lot of psychology behind them. Sometimes it appears to try to make beautiful women as ugly as possible. I could be wrong but it don’t think it appeals to most men but then we are not the customers for the products.

I'm a woman and these ads don't speak to me or compel me to run out and buy their product. Heck, on most of the ads, I can't even figure out what they are advertising.

Leigh Smith's picture

Can we just talk about how terrible the AA ad is in every aspect, I never could understand why companies would pay for some fauxtographer to come in with a cellphone and on camera flash and just blast the shit out of the seine in the most raunchy way. But then again I'm no Terry Richardson kind of perve...

Many years ago I read Bram Dijkstra's "Idols of Perversity: Fantasies of Feminine Evil in Fin-de-Siècle Culture". This book covers the portrayal of women by painters in the European tradition at the turn into the 20th century. What's striking are the continuing parallels with today's photography. Particularly the portrayal of women as dead or sleeping bodies - painters feasted on this just as much as any of today's photographers. There is little that is really new.

Adam T's picture

This makes sense from a physiological point of view, the purpose of these shoots are to stir up emotions, sexualize, and objectify.

Fashion 101, that's what sells

Paul McQueen's picture

Love the bible connection, that could just run and run, however, it seems to me that if this argument against objectification along with all the PC runs it's course, we are only going to be able to photograph women in burkas or standing in traditional Japanese tourist posts. Lingerie ads are aimed at women, to make women feel sexier about themselves, as are cosmetics. Women also use their wiles when they want to, and, there is plenty of objectification of men. Seems to me that the world is going mad.

Antti Mutka's picture

A photographer using a image from unsplash in a article about photography on a photography website. Oh the irony.

I worked as a fashion photographer in the industry and I must say that there is a HUGE percentage of so called 'creative directors' pushing their 'vision' onto both the model, photographer and advertiser. They want publicity at any cost in order to sell magazines and therefore justify their exhorbatant advertising prices all the while trying not to pay everyone else such as the photographer, models, makeup artist', the real people behind the actual work. These are mostly failed art students who can't create art in any form and call themselves 'creative directors' and bring their mediocre visions to the magazine they were fortunate enough to get hired for. These magazines are run by many creative directors but, you can count on one hand how many are truly great in their role. Hence, the horrible ideas and lackluster imagination of the images in most 'fashion' magazines. The objectification comes into play because of the way they see and treat woman. The market is flooded with models. So, their attitude is there's no need to treat them with the respect they so rightly deserve. You'd think that it's only the hetro sexual males in the industry that treat woman like this, and even though there is many instances where that is the case, it's not the only situation. There are many men and woman, both straight and gay, who treat the woman with great disdain in the fashion industry. Why? I'll leave that up to everyone's own opinion. There is a percentage of industry insiders, who see them all the same,... disposable. That's why they look like dead corpses on the inside of these magazines.

Ben Whitmore's picture

And Calvin Klein hunks are what? Also. What happens when we run out things to be offended by?