Who would have thought that doing a fashion photo shoot using a refugee theme—during a time when a major refugee crisis involving Syria is in the headlines every freaking day—would be in poor taste and might piss a few people off?
Well, it apparently didn’t occur to Hungarian fashion photographer Norbert Baksa, who did just that last week, when he did a fashion shoot with visible barbed wire at the Hungarian border and uploaded the photographs to his website and Twitter feed. Within hours of doing so, Baksa became the target of an enormous torrent of criticism in the international press. The name of the series is “Der Migrant,” which is German for “The Migrant.”
One picture depicts a woman taking a selfie at a barbed wire border, using a cellphone with a prominent Chanel logo on the back. Her shirt is unbuttoned and one of her breasts is exposed, which isn’t exactly a tasteful way to depict anyone who might be associated in the viewer’s mind with Syria, where such garb would be surely considered haram under Islamic law.
On October 6 Baksa took to Twitter to defend himself, unleashing a series of self-serving “no harm, no foul”-type tweets that were unsuccessful in deflecting attention from his own responsibility in publishing these images:
Der Migrant people: realize the complexity of the situation and address it in different angles! Neither pro nor con, raising awareness!— Norbert Baksa (@NorbertBaksa) October 6, 2015
Pictures are reproductions of reports in Hungarian media. Some show refugees fleeing for life, others show aggressive migrants or terrorists— Norbert Baksa (@NorbertBaksa) October 6, 2015
Aim is not 2 offend refugees or anybody else, but 2 show duality in news reports in the media.— Norbert Baksa (@NorbertBaksa) October 6, 2015
Pictures are results of voluntary project to bring the different views together by opening our minds to discover new points of views— Norbert Baksa (@NorbertBaksa) October 7, 2015
Baksa, who has done shoots for Elle, Playboy, and Cosmopolitan, among others, said in a statement that the pictures were “not intended to glamourize this clearly bad situation,” but rather “to draw the attention to the problem and make people think about it.” He added that the images he created were based off of real photographs of refugees attempting to cross the border.
I hoped people would realize that the situation is very complex and see that they are taking stands based on partial or biased information. ... This is exactly what we wanted to picture: you see a suffering woman, who is also beautiful and despite her situation, has some high quality pieces of outfit and a smartphone.
Needless to say, if Baksa’s intent was to provoke and turn himself into an object of controversy (sure to lead to better-paying future gigs), he succeeded—but at what cost?
Much more after the jump….