A Mail Outrage

The world’s most popular newspaper site, that’s the Daily Mail’s pap-guzzling online cousin Mail Online, has got a bit worked up by Thomas Czarnecki’s “From Enchantment to Down” series. The series, which is pure generic art photography, has the ostensible theme of taking a well-known fairy tale heroine and showing her in death. What this means in practice is photographs stripped of emotion and women lying in violated poses, all skirts up and legs. They are faceless.

Photography like this is hard to defend as it comes under attack from at least three sides. First, there is the Mail whose angle is to be enraged by anything that doesn’t fit its perfect little Englander vision. Second, the feminist approach (for want of a better phrase) that looks at this not as any form of reclaimation or reinterpretation but further objectification and violence against women by men. Third, other photographers who look on and see technical perfection but no merit.

The money chases this kind of photography. It scandalises the right people, it has a frisson of risk and it doesn’t require too much search for meaning. Something has gone wrong somewhere. I want to like this work, I want to defend freedom of expression even when that expression is repugnant but I can’t get my head round this. It’s not the remorseless negativity it’s the remorseless sameyness. Every character has the same demise, every woman in the same essential repose.

It’s not an artistic investigation or challenging representation, it’s a Fast Show sketch: a punch line has been found and is hammered home again and again.

See the series here.

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