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Former Fashion Photographer: Why Do Many Models Look Like ‘Dead Bodies’ In Fashion Magazines?

By Brittany Smith on February 14th 2018

*Warning: sexualized images below

Women have been dominating the headlines as of late with the subjects of #BodyPositive, #MeToo and #TimesUp, and while it may feel like overkill to some this has been over 30 years in the making. As the industries scramble to address the criticisms and adapt to the changes, shouldn’t the portrayal of women on the big screen and in print evolve as well?

“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.” – Jennifer Moss

Former fashion photographer Jennifer Moss shares her concerns of how  advertisements have failed to reflect women in a positive light. After studying these images for years, she has found the portrayals of women typically fit in the following categories:

  • Scared/Victim – appears frightened or protective, pulling away from a man, looks dead.
  • Positioned for Sex/Undressed – legs are spread, positioned on a bed, undressed.
  • Demure/Childlike – body language indicates submission and/or weakness, no eye contact.
  • Non-human/One of Many – no face or the face is obscured, no individuality, a product.

Jennifer comments that many of the ads reflect women as victims of sexual violence. Scantily clad women were predominantly rendered as either hyper sexualized objects or corpselike beings. It communicates that a woman can’t be both sexy and strong beings and still be thought of as glamorous. This also pigeonholes the notion of being glamorous to either objectification or weak and submissive.

This type of visualization severely limits the perception of what it is to be a woman. It also drastically reduces her natural complexities to an oversimplified object of sex, and, as a result, is sometimes thought of as the inferior sex; both of which negate any progress made during the previous century. 

The argument has always been that sex sells and that is true to an extent, depending on the demographic doing the buying. As more and more women continue to exercise their buying power, the market and images associated with the ads have shifted to meet the demands of its consumer and as a result we are seeing more inclusivity. Female models of various shapes, sizes and ages are being used to create images that appeal to women instead of marginalizing them to a singular sexual object.

[REWIND: Former Model Agent Talks About Known Model Abuse & What Photographers Can Do]

Interestingly, a movement that is deemed as a huge step forward and uplifting for women has been met with an enormous amount of scrutiny and backlash from a surprising amount of men who feel victimized and yet, historically speaking, have had very little difficulty being heard. Just because women are gaining ground and using their voice to redeem their power doesn’t mean that men are losing theirs. 

“Women aren’t being so sexualized as they were. […] Women are dressing for women, not dressing for men anymore.” – Jayne Pickering, Fashion Director at Marie Claire UK.

The trajectory of imagery now being produced is indicative of progress. Women are dressing for women and the blatant nakedness eluding to the idea of solely sex is being replaced with impeccably styled layers of clothing. They are being captured from a lower angle while facing the camera, creating a human connection with the viewer.


Recent ad campaigns and fashion editorials demonstrate that a woman can be both sexy and powerful while retaining her femininity. Models are being cast to personify the change they wish to see which is that of the empowered woman.

The empowered woman is being portrayed as someone who is strong and confident, someone who is happy and successful, and someone who is very much alive. She is a very capable individual who is celebrated for her complexities, and that is a beautiful thing. 

Via: The BBC

Brittany is a fashion and beauty photographer who works between NYC, Montana and LA. She photographs the way she has always wanted to feel and believes in the power of raw simplicity. When not behind a camera she can usually be found at a local coffeeshop, teaching fitness classes at the YMCA, or baking something fabulous in the kitchen.
Instagram: @brittanysmithphoto

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  1. Kyle Stauffer

    “The trajectory of imagery now being produced is indicative of progress”. I find it ironic that the “progressive/liberal” community  created this and now it’s being deemed as progress to go back to a moral code and principles. 

    “When virtue is banished, ambition invades the minds of those who are disposed to receive it, and avarice possesses the whole community.” – Thomas Jefferson

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