Seductive Sexuality in Fashion Photography the Norm and Not the Exception

Natalia Vodianova for VOGUE UK © Mario Testino

The words Sex, Sensuality and Seduction are bandied around more often in Fashion and Beauty Editorial spreads than the words “Fashion” or “Beauty” in  “Fashion” and “Beauty” magazines.  Why is that?

Well, that is not new news as we have been so heavily inundated that we have reached the point of a mind numbing indifference. Perhaps indifference is not really appropriate. Let’s call it, normal. Seductive, sexy, sensual are all very appropriate words indeed, as that is what most of us strive for. We all want to be appealing to those viewing us and as sentient beings, sexuality is a very powerful part of our id.

But not only are the words being used in the content of mainstream media, but they are being carried over to illustrate the most common magazines read by the general public. In fact if you were to look at a magazine like Numéro ten or fifteen years ago, you would be forgiven for thinking that you were looking at a spread (no pun intended) of Playboy magazine, with more slender and lanky models.

Numéro Magazine Cover

Now I am not here to pass judgment, nor to pontificate, as that is not my role here. I see it as a mirroring of the body politic of the masses, what we wear and how we express our selves through art, photography, music etc… is a very important expression of our society as a whole or better yet a huge snap shot of a point in time that we can study in retrospect to determine the sociological and psychological profile of a society at any given time.

Well, at this juncture in time, it is the norm and not the exception that we adorn fashion magazines with nude or scantily dressed semi nude models wearing very little if any fashion at all. Of course there are exceptions to the rule, but most of the more relevant fashion magazines, find it very much a part of the norm to express themselves using nudity as part of their policy to garner a larger reading audience.

Naomi Campbell and Lara Stone for LOVE Magazine © Mert Alas and Marcus Piggot

Being that we are being exposed daily with gratuitous nudity on the internet, I can understand why they would feel the need to use this very powerful tool of sexuality to sell their products. Without this vehicle, many of them would probably be out of business today.  I almost forgot to mention that for the more conservative magazines, there are the obligatory nipple pads that often give the models a less than human barbie doll look or even worse the removal of the breast nipples from opaque or transparent bra’s, making the whole thing look absurd at best. In those cases, it is best to not show the breasts all.

But like all things in fashion and fashion is a mirroring of society as a whole, we live in a cyclic world, with what was out of fashion today becoming in fashion tomorrow. What may be considered sexy today will become boring and predictable tomorrow. So who knows, perhaps in the next decade or so, the sexy women in fashion magazines will be depicted in a scenario unintentionally flashing her knee during a dinner date at a posh restaurant or touching her shoulder during a conversation or showing a tiny bit of breast cleavage while bending over to pick up a hair pin.

Kate Moss for VOGUE Brazil © Mario Testino

All I am saying is that what goes around comes around and what we consider shocking today might be the norm tomorrow and that norm just might end up being very boring indeed. So enjoy the ride, “what ever will be will be, the future’s not ours to see, Que Sera Sera…”

About Benjamin Kanarek
Fashion and Beauty Photographer. Some of the magazines I have shot for include: VOGUE (China, Portugal, Brazil, Italia, Paris and South America & Mexico editions), RG VOGUE Brazil, Harper’s BAZAAR (China, en Español & Latin America, Hong Kong, Italy editions), L’Officiel Paris, ELLE (Spain, Portugal and Greece editions), Madame Figaro (France), Cosmopolitan (France and Italy editions), Glamour (France), Votre Beauté, Jardin des Modes, Dépêche Mode, New York Daily News, Fashion District News, New York Times Magazine, W (British edition), WWD, Fashion Magazine (Canada), Flare (Canada), Oyster, Tank, WestEast…