The Editorial: I Wanna Deliver A Shark

The Editorial: I Wanna Deliver A Shark

Torture devices, outlandish sex toys and garish, ostentatious trinkets might make you uncomfortable. As artefacts of design, they invariably reflect some human behaviour, some deeply held desire. “What is wrong with people?” you might ask. But regardless of your quirks and kinks (or your motivations and prejudice therein), it is through our charged relationships to these objects, their symbols, their very existence, that we might most understand our absurd selves.

I caught the Design for the Real World exhibition at London’s Royal College of Art on its closing day last week. Among lighting schemes for poor urban neighbourhoods, a bike-powered espresso maker and edible insects, Ai Hasegawa‘s extraordinarily provocative “I Wanna Deliver A Shark” was tucked into a quiet corner. Equal parts whimsical LOL and stare-you-in-the-face “I dare you!”, her design exercise asks exactly what the title suggests: would you deliver a shark? And this is not Gaetano Pesce-style shock-art. Hasegawa is dead serious.

For occupying such messy social space, Hasegawa’s idea is surprisingly elegant: it’s a scary, uncertain world – maybe instead of bringing another person into it, you might put your reproductive organs to use, and perhaps even positively contribute the food chain in the process. Three birds with one stone. (And to avoid any trace of misogyny, I invite all the guys to close their eyes and imagine a shark foetus inside them.)

While the whole thing is biological pie-in-the-sky (for now), the prospect is both terribly conflicting and strangely compelling. But man, since we just love to harp on about sustainability, animal kindness, responsible supply chains, it could be interesting to see people put their money where their mouths are: “Yes, I know exactly where this endangered fish I’m eating came from!” And one can’t help but wonder what the hardcore Alice Waters acolytes who endlessly preach locavorism might feel when it involves a placenta and a great deal of blood coming out of you.

And much like the torture devices, sex toys and gluttonous SUVs, Hasegawa’s exercise strikes uncomfortably at the heart of our absurd humanity. What’s sacred? What isn’t? Why? So, why not give birth to an adorable little salmon filet? Or a cute kitty? Given the context of plummeting happiness, overpopulation and sinking economies, it almost makes sense.

So, would you? Could you?

Tag Christof – Images courtesy Ai Hasegawa

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The Editorial: (Your Words Here)

The Editorial: (Your Words Here)

It’s always seemed quaint to me that Oxford and Webster still go through the trouble to formally ‘admit’ new words into the English language every year. Web words, buzzwords, passing neologisms, schoolyard slang… and all of a sudden, “ginormous” makes it! It’s a real word! And at long last, you can officially use “retweet” in a game of Scrabble. But it all seems like a tireless quest to contain something that generally can’t be contained, like in the Academie Française’s futile attempt a decade or so ago to replace the word “email” in the French language with the anodyne “courriel.” Language grows as it goes, bitches.

Now, for posterity’s sake it’s probably a good thing that someone bothers to put these buzzwords du jour down on a printed page, lest we forget them forever within a few years time. I’m just old enough to remember a few volumes worth of Encyclopaedia Britannica hanging around dustily on a living room shelf… remember when they were the one-stop-shop for science and animals and history and faraway Iplaces? But just a few short spins around the sun and those stolid, proud-looking books are aaaaaaaaancient. Like, prehistoric. Like, dead and gone. Like, completely and utterly useless.

But thankfully for us, there’s the Internet. Our swirling, at-the-edge-of-chaos, superconnected source for everything good and evil. The conduit for our culture and the most supremely dynamic platform ever devised for the sharing of human knowledge. And just like language itself, it invents and subverts and redefines itself like a force of nature. So, it seems like old misters Oxford and Webster best just leave the wordsmithing to the great collective brain. Open-source Urbandictionary and Wikipedia and their more specialised online cousins, afterall, are the source of all that we know nowadays. (And I mean that only half jokingly.)

So in an infinite stroke of genius, Felix Heyes and Ben West, two students at Kingston University, took to Google to create their very own version of the dictionary. (Hey, why not? We’re all authors of our culture, now.) For every word in the existing dictionary, the two used an algorithm to take the most prominent finding in an image search to make for a visual record of, well, us. And without throwing around the old ‘picture is worth a thousand words’ adage too much, this exercise in culture mining is far, far more indicative of the state of human language and society than any dictionary that almost arbitrarily lets “gaydar” and “grrrrrl” onto its pages. Several thousand images of porn, gore, and plastic celebrities later, it’s a look into an all-seeing mirror. And just like the day after an all night rager, you might not much like what you see staring back at you… but it’s real!

And since my Webster-backed computer spell check has just claimed that “rager” isn’t a word, my work here is clearly done.

Tag Christof – Images courtesy of Ben West

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The Editorial: Robin Hood Gardens, Modernist Murder

The Editorial: Robin Hood Gardens, Modernist Murder

Modernism, especially in brutalist form, is an understandably misunderstood beast: its unfriendly concrete and absolutely unadorned exteriors are lightyears away form classical notions of beauty. Its major works are relics from a simpler time, when it was believed that human behavior could be easily influenced, predicted and planned for. And while many were poorly executed dilutions of their grand ideological underpinnings, others remain supremely important places that despite their controversy are key pieces of world architectural patrimony: more than Stonehenge or the Sydney Opera House, they are important because they reveal deep truths about the realities of human society.

Robin Hood Gardens, a social housing estate in London’s Poplar neighborhood designed in the 1960s by Alison and Peter Smithson, is a prime example of just such a place: its design was remarkably innovative and still distinctive and had a huge impact on successive architecture. And in a blow to the design community around the world, its definitive demolition was announced just this week. The news comes after a drawn out battle between a local council strapped for money and eager to shed its ghetto image and many prominent voices such as Zaha Hadid within the architectural community who have been outraged at the prospect of its demolition. The place was even a subject of a book, Robin Hood Gardens: Re-Visions, in which several practices pitched in ideas for its renovation and preservation.

But today in London, with the exception of the Barbican, the Commonwealth Institute (slated to become the Design Museum‘s future home), the Goldfinger towers and a small handful of others who have managed to achieve “protected” status, Robin Hood Gardens is now among many major modernist sites that are systematically being demolished to make way for other, less-offensive and less visionary projects meant to solve urban problems as cheaply and unremarkably as possible.

Still, the overwhelming truths about places like these have been well documented. From Pruitt-Igoe’s colossal failure in St. Louis, Missouri to the continued plight of South London’s rotting, crime-infested Aylesbury Estate and the notorious United Nations Plaza in San Francisco, gang violence, disproportionate poverty and blight all seem to be the standard aftermath of modernist solutions to urban problems. Apart from those which have been heavily gentrified and/or colonized by architectural connoisseurs like the Barbican and, more recently, Trellick Tower, the places are just dismal. Peter Pan Gardens is no exception: it is today in a shambles, with tons of blown-out glass and its lower floors entirely boarded up. But that’s a product of decades of neglect – what would these spaces have become under better circumstances? Perhaps models for an equally optimistic 21st century modernism?

It’s no great wonder that many want these places demolished, but it’s a nevertheless a shame that the grand ideas will be destroyed to make way for anonymous cookie cutter houses. But in the end, architecture’s role in society is that of open-minded innovator rather than sentimental preservationist. But I just can’t help but believe that many of these these last, iconic, exotically beautiful brutalist spaces can’t be preserved and responsibly updated. They could stand for centuries as reminders of the last time we humans fancied ourselves all-powerful creators…

Tag Christof – Images courtesy ArchDaily

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The Editorial: Pirate Space Race!

The Editorial: Pirate Space Race!

Just this month Russians voted (however dubiously) to put Putin back in their presidency. And like we saw last week, the USA is still keen on flexing its bully muscles to show the world who’s boss. Leaving aside economically-hobbled Europe and still-teething China for a moment, the world looks poised for yet another generation of long distance provocations between two bratty superpowers. The two remain stubbornly at odds despite Russian socialism’s ostensible demise. And despite its streets now crawling with the shiniest Italian fashion and German luxury rides, Moscow’s brutal crushing of both political and civil rights protests proves the place is pretty much as Soviet as ever. And as the clashes unfold in Russia, America–always nicely stocked with right-wing crazies with no shortage of terrifyingly ill-minded policy rhetoric to spew–continues to beat its hugely hypocritical chest about freedom and liberty and all of the blah blah that any casual observer of its recent wars in the Middle East know is mostly propagandistic tripe. The whole thing feels more than just a tad Cold War.

But wait! Remember the Space Race? It was far and away the coolest conflict-driven competition in the history of mankind! It was a crucible for endless, fantastical dreams for human possibility and a source of immense pride. Sputnik versus Explorer, Luna versus Apollo. Oh, the good old future!

Sadly, the next wave of antagonism between the world’s superpowers is not likely to include plans for cosmic settlements or Mars probes, but rather skirmishes over oil pipelines, food supplies and trade agreements, all driven by fractured ideologies. America, as it tends to do when short-sighted conservatives call the shots, has divested its grand space program to the “private sector” and Russia’s has withered in neglect as resources have gone into consolidating military power. In any case, it looks like dull old terrestrial life for us little earthlings.

But there still may be life in the space race, in some form or another: in a remarkable recent twist, infamous torrent website The Pirate Bay has declared that it plans to send its servers into orbit in the near future to avoid the sorts of legal battles that had temporarily closed the site down. So while America and Russia may not go at in the cosmos anymore, it seems that the next frontier of the brewing IP and copyright war might indeed be in space. If their plan seems a bit far fetched, consider that they’ve long thrived as renegades, dodging bullets from irate media conglomerates, artists and, of course, vengeful governments.

So, just as last week, as both a consumer and producer of content, we remain on the fence about the polar core issues of “stealing” and “openness,” but are valiantly watching the battles. The ethics of torrents could surely use a good old shakedown from an ethicist, but the argument seems to be bigger than the list of grievances against them from the likes of DreamWorks, Apple, Warner Brothers, the Linotype type foundry and various Swedish institutions. Clearly, the pirates are stepping on some powerful toes and will eventually have to result to drastic measures to save themselves from the wrath of their enemies. (Wired UK even reports that they tried to buy their own micro nation in the North Sea.) We can’t imagine any Western government would be keen to see a satellite devised to undermine a chunk of its commercial underpinnings make it off the ground.

Still, the overall picture is about more than just ripped off music and software. Unlike stilted speeches from policymakers about net neutrality, this kind of radical maneuvering really indicates a huge will to maintain an unpoliced realm within the web. The ideas of free space, equal access and uninhibited sharing embodied in the contemporary Occupy and predecessor Share The Streets movements (and many before them) is captured well in the spirit of The Pirate Bay’s defiant ethic, and the time seems right for such a radical move.

And while we remain doubtful that the project can really take off–pricey satellites for free content? really?–it’s a lot of fun to imagine how this epic saga might unfold. Will the pirates manage to pull off an orbiting content coup? Will they be ruthlessly shut down? One thing is clear: it’s much more exciting to imagine the former. So, in the spirit of rebellion and the joys of conflict-driven imagination, let’s imagine a benevolent pirate flag hurdling far above the skies sometime soon.

Tag Christof – Images courtesy of NASA

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The Editorial: Ode To Richard

The Editorial: Ode To Richard

And an ethically complex war that will undoubtedly impact our media-fueled futures rages on: just yesterday Richard O’Dwyer, the student accused of copyright infringement, has been ordered extradited from the UK to America. Yikes.

This year has already been a rager in the battle between traditional content producers and the quicksilver warriors of the internet. So far we’ve seen the sideshow spectacle Kim Dotcom’s fantastic downfall and enormous worldwide protests against the proposed Protect IP Act and Stop Online Piracy Act bills introduced by the United States’ legislature. And now, helpless Richard, who ran a two-bit site that linked to copyrighted content, is being hauled away from his home to face a wrath tied up in a sociopolitical and economic discourse much bigger than his actions.

Alas, television and movies (and their protected legal statuses) overwhelmingly originate in the USA, and the massive media conglomerates who produce them have a vested interest in making sure those programs and films can continue to generate steady profit. Fair enough. But the sudden push to toughen up criminal laws is reflective of a legal system that readily bends to the will of those with lots and lots of €£$¥. The conglomerates are scared. The porous, dynamic nature of the Internet has chipped away at their anachronistic models, and so they’ve been lobbying lawmakers around the clock to come to their defense. “Save us from that big bad Richard!” they cry, melodramatically.

But since power and money [almost] always flock together, helpless Richard loses. And while that may be a rather simplistic down-on-the-street 99% style argument, it’s nevertheless a scary proposition: like pirates rushing to shove dirty rags in the holes of their rickety ships while forcing someone to walk the shark tank plank because he helped steal a tarnished cubic zirconia, the conglomerates are ignoring their most pressing issues while they unscrupulously attempt to bend the rules to their favor. But since Hollywood and Silicon Valley stand on starkly different sides of the debate (Google wants open, Disney wants closed), there is a vast amount of clout (and money) on both sides of the issue. It will be fascinating to see how the story unfolds over the coming years. In any case, the implications are huge on both sides.

2DM itself is an agency whose signed talents produce a great deal of high-quality, original content. We shoot for the glossies, illustrate for the generation-defining independents and style for some serious brands. And despite inevitable minor skirmishes over rights and misappropriation, we generally feel that the world is a better place with our artists out there making it slightly prettier. So on the face of it, we agree with the old-style content creators – photographers, actors, musicians and designers alike cannot get by if people steal their hard work – but we see everyday the tremendous value that the open and dynamic nature of the internet has brought to the world. We might all make a bit less for our content, but in return we get far more and far better content than we once did.

At the heart of the problem lies more than a seriously unlucky student whose life will likely be ruined by the out-of-control complex that wishes to make an highly visible example of him: the open, transparent future we dream of has no place for the massive concrete walls of PIPA, SOPA and the lobbyists whose indirect actions are going to land that poor student in American prison.

Let’s all root for Richard. This is serious.

Tag Christof – Images courtesy of Walker Evans

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The Editorial: Fifteen Too Many

The Editorial: Fifteen Too Many

Fashion has always been about gloriously enormous vision (and equally enormous ego), but once-upon-a-time it was a space populated by a cohesive and rarefied coterie of tastemakers and savants: breakout models, prodigy designers, inspired photographers and critics who had spent entire careers carving out distinctive editorial voices and nuanced, well-informed tastes. It has always been a circus, but it was a fascinating one filled with strong, smart voices. But now, fashion’s periphery is a lifestyle, overrun by countless self-proclaimed style mavens, pandering PRs, and countless other hangers-on. Bewildering narcissism abounds. Everyone wants a fifteen-minute piece of the Warholian fame pie, and they’re selling slices for cheap nowadays. Limit one per customer.

These fashion victims and prima donnas and party kids tromp around in improbable outfits sipping Clicquot and feigning fabulousness, less interested in the serious rigor of fashion than in flashiness and fame for its own sake. And while they’re nice enough as a sideshow spectacle, their feelings of entitlement are troubling, if understandable in a culture perpetually entranced by celebrity, no matter its source.

Tweet. Namedrop. Sip champagne. Repeat.

The fashion weeks themselves have multiplied, popping up everywhere from Buenos Aires to Bombay to Bangkok. More platforms for more fifteen minutes. And while it’s certainly a good thing that the world of style shall no longer be lorded over by an oligarchy on the Milan-Paris-New York axis, it is at risk of fracturing irreparably. That style axis at least held the arguments together gracefully and lent the fashion system a solid MO. But the cacophony of voices each self-servingly shrieking for attention is progressively drowning out the overarching narrative that gives fashion its credibility. And ladies and gentleman, without that all-important, well-recited narrative, all we’re left with are showy, impractical clothes: a sparkly runway and legions of wannabe Anna Wintours do not a fashion system make.

In this context, brands under pressure to out-manoeuvre Zara and others have taken the path of least resistance and dished out equity to those hangers on. And their predictable fifteen-minute attention spans have led to the implementation of lightning-quick collection changes that have, in turn, engendered lightning-quick caprices of preference. The mix-and-match zeitgeist veers wildly back and forth without much reason as look-at-me cool hunters and myopic bloggers convince labels that deco and jazz are cool. No, wait, punk. No, wait, fifties. No, wait, Italy. No, wait, military! (Does anyone bother to ask why anymore?… Shut up. Just grin and try to look fabulous.) These weak stylistic trends have led to diluted product lines and way too many garish, even hideous collections that will almost certainly age badly. We can look back at the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s and 1990s with relative certainty about their style evolutions and what they meant in the context of politics and sociology and society. What will posterity look back on and see in this decade? A capricious, schizophrenic mess? Well… I don’t really remember because all the bloggers that told me so aren’t cool anymore…

For fashion’s own sake, it is unfortunate that it has become the platform par excellence for those desperately seeking an easy fifteen minutes. Maybe it’s just easier to fake it here. But there is so much substance behind those doing the real, hard work of envisioning and executing fashion’s advance that a focus on these narcissistic sideshows is to miss the point entirely. Funny thing is, the toilers who really do make it all happen often work in silence. Their work is their reward, fashion truly is their passion (excuse the lame but inevitable alliteration), and when they do achieve fame it’s for exceptional work. Not desperate screams for attention.

In the meantime, if fame is your aim, excellent. Get to work. Really. A half-hour. A day. A week. Maybe even a lifetime of celebrity might just be waiting. But if you’re in it for the fifteen, stop screaming already. We’ve already forgotten you.

Tag Christof – Images by Cecil Beaton

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The Editorial: Nine to Five. No Way.

The Editorial: Nine to Five. No Way.

Like every twentysomething hammering away at a chance for success, I’m stretched tight tight tight like spandex over a bulging body. I wake up early, shove something down that only distantly resembles food, hop on my bicycle (exercise and transport!), and get straight to the hive. I work across three countries in four languages at what feels like millions of jobs with billions of roles. Coffee breaks are for extra meetings and evening pints are for networking. And there are events to be seen at and podcasts to keep up with and blogs and magazines that simply must be read and messages, texts, tweets, and that oh-so-endless flow of email. I’ll get around to answering that… tomorrow? Meh. Maybe next week.

Like the 1980 Dolly Parton movie, 9 to 5 is a quaint and distant anachronism; a relic from a prehistoric time of olive green typewriters and polyester suits and indoor smoking. Sing it with me (because you know you know the song): ”Working nine to five. What a way to make a living! Barely get-ting by. It’s all taking and no giving…” Oh, if only you knew, Dolly. You guys had it good.

And for those of us insane enough to work in the context of “creativity” in the traditional sense –and most of you, dear readers, do exactly that– that oh-so-stifling routine seems just a tad… unjust? Counterintuitive? There is no more surefire way to stifle and generally make something less-enjoyable than by turning it into regimented work. There are cranky clients and heavy workloads and difficult coworkers. Money? Not so much. Even parties are work. Tedious work. And did I tweet today? Is my portfolio up-to-date? And all that email! Maybe next week.

But I’m supposed to be a creative, damnit! In pre-adult responsibility days, I could glue and draw and destroy and build and paint and cut and photograph and write at will. Now, if I’m lucky I have the wherewithal to read a book before bed, I can usually make it through a chapter before falling asleep on top of it. So, when in the hell can I create? Certainly not the next time those dear, dear clients asks for something “really creative.”

But take heart! You can find inspirational escapes somehow. In those nooks and crannies of your daily grind, somewhere between the tweets and the tedium, you can rediscover that once-upon-a-time passion. New passion. The best among you even turn the tedium into inspiration.

Diego Giménez’ magical photographs of drivers in their cars on his workaday commute in Argentina are a gorgeous lesson in exactly that. He managed to turn his doldrums into an arrestingly beautiful slice of humanity. Now that’s creativity in the post 9 to 5 world.

Tag Christof – Images courtesy of Diego Gimenez

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The Editorial: Tweet. Tweet. Tweet. Tweet. Twaddle.

The Editorial: Tweet. Tweet. Tweet. Tweet. Twaddle.

I recently had a little tiff over Twitter with a website for grannies, ran by grannies. The site had come up in the context of a design project, and so I had to spend a considerable amount of time on it. Feeling out of place and a bit bemused at the site’s content (sex advice and chat for grannies! the best iPhone apps for grannies!), I grumbled my way through my research and like any good twentysomething in 2012, I spat off a sarcastic tweet about it.

Within minutes, the site shot back with a sarcastic response. I had insulted some grannies! And our little battle raged on for a good 10 tweets or so. Those grannies were damn witty. Tack sharp. Knocked me under the table.

Now, this is precisely the point of Twitter. It gives us a major means of communication free of the decentralized, sprawling and impossible-to-navigate systems of the past. It has given everyone no-barriers access to everyone else in a porous, horizontal network which just may be the most democratic platform on the web. You like Phillip Lim’s new design? Tell him. You think your politician is doing a crap job? Tell them. Corporations, celebrities and politicians are on the same playing field as anyone else who might have something interesting to say. It’s nothing short of a revolutionary change that has certainly had its part in creating its own share of revolutions: the Arab Spring and the Occupy movement represent great advances in democracy that probably couldn’t have happened in a pre-Twitter world. There’s no telling what this type of communication without barriers may bring next.

But in the days of yore, it was a considerably more difficult to accidentally get into a fight with some anon grannies. What I had intended as a sideways joke for my colleagues ended up mostly just demonstrating to granny’s thousands of followers what a sarcastic jerk I am. Misplaced, misinterpreted tweets meant for one group (but inevitably seized upon by others) have led to ruined political careers, PR disasters, killed friendships and even a fair number of arrests.

And so today, as your fashion queen friends OMG over their afternoon tea and everyone else shamelessly pours out self-promotion, take a step back and reconsider your contributions. Share knowledge. Information. Maybe even good joke or two. But don’t let the free-for-all go to your head. Just because you have the platform on which to say it, that doesn’t mean anyone really wants to hear it. And we’ve each been given a golden opportunity to say something worthwhile to the whole world!

So tweet wisely, kids: I have a feeling it might not end well for me if I should see those grannies in the street.

Lars Tunbjörk is a Swedish photographer who has published several collections of works in monograph form. His office spaces with their absurd-looking, uncomfortable workers seems somehow to look quite a bit like Twitter at its aimless worse.

Tag Christof – Images courtesy of Lars Tunbjörk

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The Editorial: Smoking Sex / Tom Vek’s Aroused

The Editorial: Smoking Sex / Tom Vek’s Aroused

Before you read another word of this, watch this video.

Now, don’t you really really want a cigarette now? I’m not generally a smoker, but I weakly went out and bought a pack after I watched it for the first time – it is importantly only the third pack I’ve ever bought. Ever. So just try to imagine the models in this excellent video doing exactly what they’re doing without them: it is unabashedly sexy because of the smoking.

Top Tung Walsh for Pop, Above Juergen Teller for Paradis

Theories about why smoking is so sexy abound. Each one as ridiculous and impossible as the next. “The cigarette is phallic.” (Lesbians think smoking is sexy, too…) “Virile young humans smoke, which has made us over time equate smoking with virile young partners.” (Plenty of fat old humans who don’t get much sex smoke, too…) “Humans had ancient ancestors with long incisors that resemble cigarettes which evolutionarily makes our brains equate cigarettes to long incisors, which equal good mates“ (Yikes. I’d like to meet the storyteller crackpot who came up with that one!) And the list goes on. And on.

Greta Garbo by Cecil Beaton

In any case, this video directed by Saam Farahmand for Tom Vek’s latest single somehow taps into smoking’s sexiness in the most positively provocative way in recent memory. Here smoking is a romp through a garden of pure, unabashed pleasure. Here it is sex. Soma. A journey from arousal to climax. And without diving into the many, many pitfalls of the habit (we know, we know, we know), fashion’s continued flirtation with the act has been unyielding, which might suggest that there is a deep, primordial connection to it after all.

Jolijn Snijders

Think of Cecil Beaton’s famous portrait of a smoking Greta Garbo. And every major fashion photographer from Avedon to Testino to Richardson to Goldin have used it in some capacity quite successfully. Juergen Teller shot vehement smoker and artist (in that order, I think) David Hockney last year. 2DM’s Skye Parrott (a disciple of Goldin), Jolijn Snijders and Bruna Kazinoti – all of whose images are laced with undercurrents of emotional and sexual tension – have each used the cigarette extensively in their imagery to brilliant effect. Tung Walsh (himself a disciple of Teller) and Vicky Trombetta, whose styles are more distant and hard-edged, as well as low-key, polished Nacho Alegre and Pablo Arroyo, have also skilfully made sexy even sexier by handing their models a cigarette or two…

Top Bruna Kazinoti, above Vicky Trombetta for Wonderland

So just as the United States one ups Europe’s screaming text warnings and follows other countries such as Australia in adding gut-wrenching images to cigarette packs, there remains quite the uphill battle. What’s wrong in mainstream society is so, so right – and per in the subversive world fashion. Even if there isn’t anyone among us who doesn’t have a hacking, wrinkly aunt somewhere to remind us by example of smoking’s devastating long-term effects…

Top Jolijn Snijders, above Skye Parrott

But the cancer sticks continue to seduce. And will until continue to do so until their un-sexy consequences become something other than distant, far-off, vague threats on crisply designed packs.

So in any case, be quite sure to augment your sexy with extreme caution. I’m throwing away my still unopened, brand-new pack today. Well, maybe I’ll smoke just one…

Tag Christof – Images courtesy 2DM, Juergen Teller and the estate of Cecil Beaton 

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The Editorial: Kill The Cattle

The Editorial: Kill The Cattle

The populace of an ideal consumer society moves like cattle. Neatly segmented into little boxes, making predictable choices and spending their disposable resources on self-aggrandizing tokens of dubious worth. And this weekend, while crammed between two heroically fat passengers on an international flight, I had a blinding realisation that most travel has devolved into one of those tokens. A type of consumeristic merit badge.

I once had a romantic vision of travel, one in which a fuller passport automatically equalled greater perspective and a path towards relative enlightenment. And certainly, travel can do exactly that. Cross-cultural understanding, language learning and personal enrichment are hallmarks of the truly well-travelled. But as I watched the plump, suntanned faces on either side of me guzzle down several Diet Cokes while their owners nervously flipped through supermarket “adventure” magazines, I saw those cattle that marketeers and profit-hungry corporations adore.

In our short conversations, the couple bragged about jaunts to Africa and southeast Asia and a cruise to Alaska. And they were clearly people who had travelled quite extensively. But they were also people who have seen very, very little. They don’t leave their hotels while in foreign countries. “We loved the hotel… the cuisine! But it’s just too scary out on the streets!” And just like every good consumeristic cattle, these people (provincials who interestingly consider themselves quite cosmopolitan) don’t like it when things don’t come neatly packaged with clear warning labels and disclaimers.

Now, this couple was certainly extreme. But overtones of their attitude – not only of cultural superiority but also of laziness – can be felt strongly when travelling to any sort of heavily touristic destination. The droves of people who pack like sardines into unpleasant airplanes don’t truly want to experience the culture or uniqueness of their destination. They want to be coddled in fancy hotels, to take pictures of themselves smiling in front of iconic monuments, and then go home to brag about it to their friends. And they want to do this without feeling threatened or uncomfortable… except that being foreign is by nature uncomfortable. And its downright exhilarating!

And there’s the disturbing trend towards resort travel, in which tourists cross the globe to stay at posh mega resorts. All while completely ignoring the place around it – why visit India or Tahiti when all you see are your Swedish masseuse and American concierge? The spas and glittering towers of Dubai and Las Vegas are paradise, but those are cultural vacuums in inhospitable desert environments designed precisely to be self-referential monuments to hedonism – the resort is the culture, and there’s certainly nothing wrong with some hedonism from time to time. But outside of these adult Disneyland, it is extremely unfortunate that their non-culture cultures are being exported en masse to all tourism. For starters, Florence just got a loathsome new Hard Rock Café in one of its most beautiful piazzas. Now the city’s legions of American college girls really don’t have to trouble themselves with eating in Italian restaurant…

So, to those of us who travel for the right reasons (and readers of The Blogazine certainly do), this summer perhaps calls for a hard restart. We are trendsetters in style and believers in lives well lived. So as you venture off this August, think about really living your hard-earned vacation. Maybe even stay closer to home to experience the treasure trove of things you undoubtedly haven’t experienced in your own backyard. Revel in where you are.

And if you do go far, get lost while exploring a neighbourhood off your tourist map. Get food poisoning. Try the language. Nix the generic tourist photos. Make friends.

Punch those cattle between the eyes.

Text & Photos Tag Christof

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