Tuesday, June 18, 2013

VICE magazine tries to find the glamour in suicide

Posted By on 06.18.13 at 04:46 PM

Camus wrote that there is only one truly serious philosophical question—and that is suicide. "Judging whether or not life is worth living amounts to answering the fundamental question of philosophy," he writes in The Myth of Sisyphus. Those words were the first thing that came to mind when I saw the photo spread that Vice Magazine removed from its website today. Entitled "Last Words," the spread is part of VICE's Women in Fiction issue, which is dedicated entirely to female writers and artists. The photos were removed after they sparked immediate online outrage. VICE issued an apology reading, in part, that "the fashion spreads in VICE magazine are always unconventional and approached with an art editorial point-of-view rather than a typical fashion photo-editorial one. Our main goal is to create artful images, with the fashion message following, rather than leading."

That is precisely the problem with these images—the context. Beneath every photo, VICE lists the fashion credits. And there's no arguing that using suicide to sell shoes is in deplorable taste. VICE's decision to run these photos as a fashion spread is indefensible. But the images themselves, removed from the context in which they were situated, are powerful. Virginia Woolf wading into the river with a rock, Sylvia Plath kneeling in front of the oven. These are human beings in the moment they decided life wasn't worth living. That moment is endlessly complex, heartbreaking, and sadly beautiful.

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