Controversy has fired up over ten-year-old French model Thylane Blondeau. Though the shoot was featured in January’s edition of Vogue Paris, co-edited by Tom Ford, it seems it’s taken until now for the world to notice.
It’s certainly a striking and well-shot editorial, but very discomforting. Showing Blondeau in a series of provocative poses, pouting like a model many years older in very adult outfits, it has been defended as art. But is it?
The difference between this and say, the legitimate art of Bill Henson, is the overbearing sexuality of the piece. While Henson’s models were nude or semi-nude, they were presented movingly as truthful snapshots of fleeting innocence and pubescent vulnerability. They were children, presented as children. Here, Blondeau is a child presented as an adult, glaring invitingly from her bed with a rouged and lipsticked face, beckoning the viewer to join her.
Fashion is absolutely an art form, and fashion photography can be an extraordinary one, but no matter how meaningful, evocative, thought-provoking or insightful, while there’s a caption in the page corner, it’s still also about selling clothes, and here, a ten year old is being willfully exploited for that purpose.
Her Vogue Enfant cover (below for comparison) tells a different story. Ignoring the contentious issue of child models altogether, the image in isolation is age appropriate, and very beautiful. We have adult models for adult mags; let’s leave Blondeau to the pages of Enfant for a few more years.
The only difference between this and the likes of child beauty ‘queen’ Eden Wood is the production value.