Revisiting Fleishman and Lucky

A recent addition to our blogroll is the site feature shoot which has just published an interview with Lauren Fleishman about an interesting and confusing set of pictures that M. Scott and I previously discussed here on Dva in this post about the Oct/Nov 08 issue of FADER.
(c) Lauren Fleishman, from feature photo

I wrote then:

Seemingly documentary pictures of an interesting person in a ‘hard’ situation (read the story on page 142 of the magazine, page 73 of the pdf), but all of the pictures are captioned with the clothes the woman is wearing. It seems to be another example of ‘real life people’ being used as models? (the toxic link: “Tasteless Vogue Photo Shoot” from Lightstalkers, about Vogue India using impoverished people to model luxury goods. Lets be clear, I don’t think there is exploitation going on in the Fader pictures, but it draws the comparison to other uses of ‘nonmodels’ and the possible implications). M. Scott and I both have seen things like this before, I think in the Fader too (examples elude me at the moment), and we’re more curious what their goals are, rather than their motives.

I had forgotten about this piece until we received an interesting (but unconfirmed and anonymous, of course) comment on that post, which is still up.

A friend of mine assisted on that shoot. She said everything was set up, including fake tears. What’s worse is that Lucky was physically and verbally abusing her son the whole time. My friend was incredibly uncomfortable the whole time and can’t stand to look at the photos now.

Now, after reading the interview and learning more about how this shoot was set up and the relationship between the photographer, subject and magazine I’m ever more curious about ‘why’ this project was done like this. Again, the pictures are beautiful and I don’t think I have a real problem with it overall: everyone was consenting and more or less forward about the situation. Maybe this is just my reaction to having an unusual model? But then again, the documentary look of the pictures is deceiving (was to me at least). I haven’t written my editors at the Fader (disclosure: I have shot assignments for them) and maybe I will, but I’m curious about your reactions first? What about using a documentary ‘style’ with ‘set up’ shots?

4 Responses to “Revisiting Fleishman and Lucky”

  1. Paul Treacy

    For me, I despise fakery. Period. And this smells of fakery plus plus. It’s also highly pretentious, is it not? Dreadful shenanigans.

  2. M. Scott Brauer

    I think you’re right about the uneasiness you feel about a “documentary” approach to “set up” shots, especially when they feel so real. I’ve always felt it necessary and important to maintain distance between my style of what I’d call a portrait and what I’d call documentary. When you get into the realm of “action portraits,” i.e. telling your subject to do something that looks real, but which you can write off as a portrait because every picture is basically an environmental portrait anyway, you start treading a very fine line that undermines the credibility of everything you see in the news. Not to say that there’s much credibility left in the news, but when something like this essay looks sooo real and genuine and it turns out to be all set up, I feel misled and deceived.

  3. matthew Salacuse

    I find it a bit repulsive that some photographers feel it is alright to slander a good photographer without knowing the facts. What you say here has real world results. You could potentially be hurting someone’s career by writing what you may have heard from an assistant that a) the photos were staged and b)there was potential child abuse. The second accusation should not be tossed out lightly on a blog. Nor should the first for that matter.
    This was an ASSIGNMENT. Assigned from a magazine to shoot a fashion story in Ms. Fleishman’s own way. She chose to shoot it like her other work. For other examples of this see Bruce Gilden or Martin Parr(both Magnum photographers) or Jeff Mermelstein. They shoot for magazines like Details, and Blender and even XXL in the same style they shoot their personal documentary work.
    On a blog like this you should be celebrating good photography and not spreading hearsay.

  4. Matt Lutton

    Slander is much too far: I related a comment that was placed on our site, open for all to see already, after it seemed that its contentions were confirmed with this interview with the photographer. That was the point of this follow up post.

    As for why to bring it up in the first place, I think it is obvious (and reflected in the reactions of others): it was a weird shoot presented in a strange way. It confused me, and others. We’re not photographers, or bloggers for that matter, to only deal with the great and perfect pictures .. we need to be challenged and called on shit sometimes. And this work isn’t shit, but it isn’t perfect either… hence a discussion.

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