Annie Leibovitz's Hurricane Sandy Shoot For Vogue — Tasteless or a Tribute?
Vogue is certainly no stranger to the controversy that comes with their social commentary (see Steven Meisel's infamous 2007 shoot inspired by the Iraq war, his 2010 Gulf oil spill editorial, and, more recently, the 'Haute Mess' spread from 2012). Now, the US title has enlisted Annie Leibovitz to interpret the devastation of Hurricane Sandy within the magazine's glossy pages.
Karlie Kloss and Kasia Struss exit a helicopter with the NYPD while Arizona Muse, Liu Wen and Joan Smalls stand atop tanks as the National Guard dispatch supplies — all while wearing the likes of Vera Wang Bride, Alexander Wang, Proenza Schouler and Donna Karan. "When Hurricane Sandy hit, the city's bravest and brightest punched back. With the area now on the mend, we paid these stalwart souls a visit, dressed up in the best of the New York collections. Call them New York's other finest," reads the text accompanying the shoot.
But are these images respectful or offensive? Slate's XX Factor blog takes on the latter view. "Is this what happens when Anna Wintour feels emotion?" Katherine Goldstein writes in an article called 'Vogue Pays Tribute to Hurricane Sandy First Responders With Awful Photo Spread'. The only two comments on the spread from readers describe it as 'tacky and tasteless' and 'inane'.
The NYPD obviously thought differently, sharing one of the spread's photos on their Facebook page — which has so far received fairly negative feedback. "Dude WTF? Those models look cropped in... just wrong wrong wrong," writes one user. "Why the need for the models? The Air NYPD and rescue dogs are the celebrities?" says another.
In Vogue's defense, the big-budget photographs are accompanied by quotes from people involved in rescue missions and relief efforts, which tell the stories about the part they played in resuscitating NYC. The Business Insider acknowledges this in their article 'Vogue's Hurricane Sandy Photo Shoot Is Not As Offensive As You Would Think'.
"Unlike previous controversial shoots, there is more meaning behind Annie Leibovitz's images than first meets the eye. They are not scenes of catastrophe with a model hitching her skirt in the general direction of devastation... The reaction to Vogue's shoot suggests that people think the fashion world has no business getting involved in a situation as series as Sandy," Rosie Swash writes. "But this isn't a drive-by interest on the part of Vogue; while working with the CDFA, the magazine helped to raise $1.7m for the relief effort. If it wants to photograph the Air NYPD and put those men in its magazine, it has earned the right."