Paper Magazine accomplished its mission to ‘break the internet’ with its Winter 2014 cover. The cyber world, in all its voices, has stepped up to deliver an explosion of responses to Jean-Paul Goude’s striking, semi-nude photos of Instagram’s third most followed user, Kim Kardashian.
The Jean-Paul Goude shots released so far include one of Mrs. Kardashian West from behind, draping her black dress underneath her buttocks to accentuate her carefully oiled, impressively large backside, and one that is a recreation of Goude’s 1976 shot with Carolina Beaumont, in which the French photographer succeeds in getting KK to balance a champagne coupette on top of her derrière, while champagne arcs over her head from the bottle into the glass. (The original photo, captured pre-Photoshop, is a particularly impressive feat.)
The shoot has caused offence on many levels, perhaps most of all, because it was calculated to do so. The Kim Kardashian brand, as vapid and single faceted as it may first appear, seems to have produced a complexly genius bit of self promotion.
“The shoot has caused offence on many levels, perhaps most of all, because it was calculated to do so”
The fact that the photos have made a spectacle of Kim’s posterior has been connected by some to the exploitation of Saartjie Baartman, a woman from the Southwest African, Khoikhoi tribe, who was taken to Europe in the early 19th Century and exhibited as a ‘Freak Show’ for her oversized behind.
Another response to Goude’s latest shoot is linked to the questionable morals of the photographer’s previous work. In the 1980s, Jean-Paul captured images of his then girlfriend, Jamaican singer, songwriter, model, record producer and actress, Grace Jones, whom he photographed bound in chains and baring her teeth while locked in a cage like an animal. These images reflected the lyrics of her songs (“I can’t get enough prey, pray for me, I’m a man-eating machine”). Other photos he took of her, exaggerating her shoulders and jawline, helped to transcend her to the status of a feminist icon. However, teaming this up with the knowledge that Goude admitted that he had a violent and angry relationship with Ms. Jones and that he enjoyed her exotic, ‘jungle’ like look adds a rather more disturbing angle to the photographer’s relationship with women.
However, Jean-Paul Goude is not the only one responsible for this latest stunt. Paper Magazine objectifies its covergirl, asking readers, “Who isn’t at least a tad curious about the flesh that carries the myth?”
Racism, objectification and and sexism are all boxes that the Paper Magazine’s cover shoot has been accused of ticking. And yet we need not be concerned for the welfare of Queen Kardashian. The self-diagnosed, selfie-obsessed, reality TV star and wife of Kanye West clearly knew full well what reactions her shoot would cause. #worldsmostcontroversialcover?
“Paper Magazine objectifies its covergirl, asking readers: Who isn’t at least a tad curious about the flesh that carries the myth?”
So does Goude have a history of exploiting women and race, or does he continue to push the moral envelope to exalt these women to new levels of fame and stardom? The choice, dear reader, is yours.