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ESSAY CONTAINS EXPLICIT CONTENT

EPF 2012 Finalist

 

Laia Abril

II Chapter on Eating Disorders ‘THINSPIRATION’

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The Pro Ana community has turned anorexia (Ana) into its dogma. This illness has even been embodied by the members of this group; they venerate it as the one giving meaning to their totalitarian ‘life style’. It’s a virtual reality where they state their commandments, share motivating tricks and exchange hundreds of images of thin models via their blogs. They have created ‘thinspiration’, a new visual language – obsessively consumed to keep on wrestling with the scales day after day.

Looking at their delusions in greater detail, I find out a new symptom in their behavior. Interacting with their own cameras in a competition in which they portray their achievements in the form of bony clavicles or flat bellies, the pro Ana have made thinspiration evolve.

I decide to look for the answer by re-taking their self-portraits with the intention of establishing a conversation between their camera and mine. I shut myself up in a dark room as if it were a model session, placing my tripod in front of the computer in such a way that, when you look through the lens, it’s only me and them. I photograph them in their rooms, in their bathrooms. They pose provocatively, narcissistically.

Pro-anorexis consume in a wicked game between admiration and repulsion: the pro-bones, where the protagonists are anorexic and are at an extreme stage of the illness. The images that I took from then on disassociate themselves from the character to turn into abstract body landscapes at the gates of the abyss. They are the visual response to the bond between obsession and self-destruction; the disappearance of one’s own identity.

‘Thinspiration’ is the second chapter of a long-term project about Eating Disorders I started almost two years ago. Furthermore it is an introspective journey, based in my personal experience, through the nature of obsessive desire and the limits of auto-destruction, denouncing new risk factors within the disease: the social networks and photography.

 

Bio

Laia Abril (Barcelona, 1986) is a documentary photographer and journalist.
Her work has been exhibited and appraised in Italy, Spain, Bosnia, Germany, London and New York on events like NY FotoFestival or the 3rd Lumix Festival. Her editorial work has been published in different international magazines such as D Repubblica, The Sunday Times Magazine, Vanity Fair, Esquire, GQ, FT Magazine or COLORS Magazine, where she has been a member of the editorial staff since 2009, when she enrolled at the Fabrica artists residency – the Benetton research centre in Italy.

In 2010 she joined the agency Reportage by Getty as an emerging talent after being finalist at the Ian Parry Award in 2009/10. Most recently she was selected for the Plat(t)form Winterthur FotoMuseum and nominated at the Joop Swart Masterclass.

She is currently working as a staff photographer, blogger and Associate Picture Editor for COLORS combining her freelance career and keeping developing her personal project.

 

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The long and legendary supermodel era of the ’90s can be summed up in one gorgeous and distinct photograph: Herb Ritts’ now-iconic shot of Naomi Campbell, Cindy Crawford, Christy Turlington, Tatjana Patitz and Stephanie Seymour huddled together in the nude.

But the 1989 sitting almost didn’t happen.

As Campbell recalls, Turlington was on a Calvin Klein contract and reportedly wasn’t allowed to participate. “We said, ‘How can you not be in this picture?’” Campbell says. “And she jumped in, and that was it!”

That black-and-white image is just one of nearly 80 photographs on display at the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles as part of a new exhibition and book on the photographer. Herb Ritts: L.A. Style, on view through Aug. 12, focuses on the portraits and nudes from Ritts, who documented models, musicians, actresses and other celebrities for magazines such as Interview, Rolling Stone and Vanity Fair throughout his career.

“He always had a vision about how he wanted every picture,” Campbell says. “He liked strength in his pictures, and he got you to do things that you never thought you could do. He was very encouraging and would talk to you about a picture first, and slowly get you there to where he wanted. And you’d be amazed that you even could do that. It was always a pleasure working with him. He was a complete gentleman, and I loved every picture he took of me.”

Herb Ritts—© Herb Ritts Foundation

Herb Ritts: L.A. Style is on view through Aug. 12 at the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles.

Campbell first met Ritts in the late ’80s when she was introduced by fellow model Tatitz. She would often stay with him when she visited Los Angeles, and the two later traveled together to South Africa, where Ritts captured the first photograph of the supermodel with former South African president Nelson Mandela. “He was just a really special human being, and someone that I know is dearly missed in fashion—you never see that kind of picture anymore,” Campbell says.

And while many people revere the image of the five supermodels as one of the most famous sittings in fashion photography, Campbell says they had no idea it would become so iconic. “It was just nice for us to be together,” she says. “We rarely get to do pictures together—even to this day—so it was like a catch-up time for us. We got there in the morning, had lunch and then he told us what we were going to do. It was easy—it was always easy with Herb.”

Herb Ritts: L.A. Style is on view through Aug. 12 at the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles and the book by Paul Martineau is available here.

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