Monday, June 16, 2008

ALEC - Toscani and his visual army

Oliviero Toscani and Benetton

“We decided to do something controversial that people would pick up on.”

In 1984 United Colours of Benetton contracted Oliviero Toscani to head their international advertising campaign. It was to be one of the most infamous and controversial partnerships within advertising. Benetton was always an ethically forward company but nothing could prepare the public for the onslaught of confronting imagery and humanitarian ideals. Through his billboards and magazine advertisements, Toscani explored the relationships between black and white roles in society,

gay stereotypes,

religious taboos

as well as the fragility of the environment.

Reactions to these images were mixed; many people did not know how to react even thought these were real life people in real life situations. I find it hard to fathom how we can view ads containing models in unrealistic situations with unrealistically good looking bodies photographed at unrealistic angles as the norm where as a simple front on shot of a baby post-birth can seem so out there and cause so much public outcry when it is pretty much the most natural experience on earth.

His images captured life not an emulation of it.

I don’t think Toscani initiative was to create a safe/warm fuzzy reaction within people, just a reaction. He wanted people to stop and take notice. Some argue that it was out of context for a clothing company to portray these confronting images but it is when something is taken out of its original context that people take the most notice. The public had soon had enough and in the interest of company longevity Toscani resigned. My sentiment goes out to Toscani who had the courage and talent to make the world take notice.


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