The Design Observer Twenty

Véronique Vienne | Case Studies

In the Raw

In Ways of Seeing, John Berger advanced the now-famous argument that there is a difference between nakedness and nudity. “To be naked is to be oneself. To be nude is to be seen naked by others and yet not recognized for oneself.” Berger’s 1972 essay still resonates today, even more so, perhaps, in this age of hacked nude photos of celebrities. In its latest issue, British fashion-insider magazine System fanned the flames of the debate with a portfolio of unretouched photographs by Juergen Teller featuring top models in the buff. It’s a gallant attempt to expose the difference between nakedness and nudity.

Unretouched is the key word. Unretouched flesh. The thrill of it is disturbing. Looking at these photographs is not unlike taking off your own clothes in front of a stranger. The discomfort is palpable. Saskia de Brauw’s Devonshire-cream carnal presence is unsettling. Stella Tennant’s ribcage is oddly featureless. Lara Stone’s breasts (she recently had a baby) are by far her most unnerving attributes. Whether these images are beautiful is a matter of taste—and politics. Ours is a Society of Spectacle, in which mediated images of reality replace authentic experiences.

And yet there is a catch. With this publication, the models, the photographer, and the magazine editors are attempting to blow the whistle on the very system they serve. This much-needed act of rebellion is System magazine’s mandate.    

All images appear by permission and courtesy of System magazine


Jobs | April 01