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I have finished with blog now, and fully referenced all the posts in the bibliography. I am now on top of my work load and feel that I have done well with this research task.


*All posts fully and accurately referenced here on November 29, 2010

Books & Articles:

  1. Kismaric S. (1990) British Photography from the Thatcher Years The Museum of Modern Art 1990
  2. Arnold R. (1999) Fashion Theory 3 no3 279-95 1999
  3. Barthes, R. (1977) ‘The Rhetoric of the Image’ in Jessica Evans and Stuart Hall (eds.) Visual Culture: the Reader, London: Sage 1999
  4. Jobling P. (1999) Fashion Spreads: Word and Image in Fashion Photography Since 1980 Berg 1999
  5. Cotton C.(2000) Imperfect Beauty: the making of contemporary fashion photographs V&A Publications 2000
  6. Day C. (2000) Diary Hamburg: Kruse 2000
  7. Bignell, J. (2002), Media Semiotics: An Introduction (2nd ed.), Manchester University Press 2002
  8. Chandler, D (2002) Semiotics: The Basics Routledge 2002

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The ‘[glorification] of death’ through the depiction of ‘waif’ thin models and unkempt drug addicts dubbed as ‘heroin chic’ has been described as deplorable by ex U.S.A. President Bill Clinton. Its use to sell clothes featuring in high end commercials is condemned as ‘reprehensible and evil’ by photographers and film makers like Nan Goldin. Concerns about this trend rose after the death of photographer Davide Sorrenti, who himself was linked to the ‘anti-glamorous’ style used in fashion photography which dates back as far as the 1960s. Themes linked to youth culture can be found in the 1960s work of Larry Clark, as well as that of Corinne Day, which explicitly depicts illicit scenes of sex and drug abuse. The contributors of this style employ documentary qualities to their photos, supposedly reflecting real life, as opposed to ‘unattainable fantasies’ (1999, Rebecca Arnold) presented in traditional fashion photography, where extensive retouching is used to put ‘sex in the picture’. This in itself raises ethical questions about truth and morality; however is it more ethical than the glamorization of heroin?

It has been argued umpteen times how fashion photography is detached from the real world, Day explaining how documentary photography holds significance in being ‘something [she’s] lived’. Instead of the ‘fake faces and phony poses’, Corinne Day’s ‘Georgina, Brixton’ among many others reflect the real world, with genuine themes evident in youth culture, and I have found this to be true for western societies as this style stretches from the United Kingdom to the United States. It also spans over various decades, reasonably intertextual, with references identifiable by many people.

When the photo is read in a fashion context, it raises questions that challenge the myth that models live the good life and the glamour and wealth that comes with the lifestyle. It contains truthful elements absent from conventional fashion photography, taking an honest and less contrived approach. Day shooting ‘as close as you can to real life’ is perhaps more ethical than the alternative methods used in fashion.

The use of Photoshop and retouching in fashion photography is considered as unethical with mascara adverts using fake lashes to present their product. ‘Fashion photography is not necessarily for people who want to know what clothes really look like’ (pg 2, Fashion Spreads: Word & Image in Fashion Photography since 1980). Day also reflects ‘imperfect beauty’, challenging the need for perfection in fashion, through the use of what she describes ‘less typical’ and androgynous models. Whereas traditional fashion photography is argued as promoting an unhealthy body image and influencing eating disorders, Day shows the reality of being a model in a less attractive fashion perhaps less desirable and more repulsive.

However if it is going to be argued that standard conventions in fashion influence reality, then the same can be said for heroin chic. The glamorization of heroin comes when such chic photos are published and used commercially. Calvin Klein used such imagery of Kate Moss in their Obsession campaign. It can be taken out of context and seem to promote an unhealthy lifestyle and the nature of fashion as a trend setting force naturally inscribes heroin chic as such a trend within photography and within a wider context in society. By presenting something new and controversial it immediately becomes interesting and alluring, especially if it rebels against standard norms and conventions. This is similar to that of post modern discourses and cynicism of the 80’s under the government of Margret Thatcher. Being anti-something is also embedded in youth culture as it is in heroin chic. However, was it ethical to give such photos such a platform in what Baurdrillad argues is a heavily ‘media saturated’ society where it is hard to distinguish real from fake? After all, heroin abuse isn’t a reality for everyone, so by heroin chic’s use in reflecting a youth culture in magazine like The Face and Ray Gun targeted at that audience, it sets a new standard in youth culture, this being what’s normal, this being what’s trendy. With responsibility as a producer of media, it may be argued that it irresponsible for heroin chic images to be produced and published.

Day didn’t intend for her work to be considered in this way, her intentions to reflect life as opposed to ‘fictional fashion’. She was reflecting her life, which is what she wanted; mentioning her surprise upon realising traditional fashion photography had less to do with the photographer than the designers and models. The photo Georgina, Brixton does more to raise concern about heroin chic instead of promote it, however unintentional in Day’s nonchalant candid approach.

“…a model inhabits the claustrophobic interior of a sparse flat. The cheap, dirty carpet and bland décor are a far cry from the lush settings more familiar to the glossy magazine. The model wears scanty red underwear, its lines drawn out in rippling black lace. But this is no vision of eroticism and desire: her thin body is contorted; she seems unaware of the camera’s exposing eye. Her confused expression and shiny skin have been interpreted as signs of drug abuse, her mannered posture as the result of a narcotics rush.” (1999 Rebecca Arnold, Fashion Theory, pg 279-95) The meticulous calculated set up of fashion sets it far from the truth and Day does well in capturing a moment that catapults itself miles ahead in significance than traditional fashion focusing attention of the reality.

There should be more concern centered on the influences that lead to drug abuse than photos which reflect it. It can also be argued that it brings to attention a crisis in the fashion industry. “Heroin chic isn’t what we are projecting, it’s what we are. Our business has become heroin chic. Someone taking pictures of that magnitude has to have experienced hard drugs” (1997, Francesca Sorrenti, Helmore and Pryor) There is more of an issue in the offense society takes to bleak representations of truth and quickness to take refuge and comfort in lies.


Subject: Ethics of Heroin Chic


  • Corinne Day’s work and themes.
  • Heroin Chic introduction and explanation
  • How Day’s work (Georgina, Brixton) fits the trend


  1. Is it really anti-glamour or a new fashion?
  2. Is Day irresponsible?
  3. Is it as real as argued?
  4. Is it a better alternative to traditional fashion photography?
  5. Is heroin chic even a problem?


  • More of a new type of glamour, however with a deeper more profound message.
  • A healthier depiction however unhealthy.
  • Heroin chic isn’t the problem so much as drug abuse and its motives.

Visual representation of my research process:

Corinne Day (Georgina, Brixton) Research and Critical Practice


From the photo, Georgina, Brixton, I have traveled in many directions of research that have related closely and remotely to the photo and subject. From this I have learned about the context in which the photos sit historically and socially, as well as fashion and photography. I have been lead onto many other issues also, such as the controversy surrounding heroin in the fashion industry, and its perceived glamorization in photography. I have also learned how to research effectively using trust worthy sources, cross referencing, and many other approaches to research and media analysis.

Corinne Day: Brief Bio, Work in Brief, On Her Work

I have found out about Corinne Day as a person and photographer through her work. She was born in West London, 1962, and began work as a photographer after meeting British film director Mark Szaszy after spending time as a model. Her photos contained themes surrounding imperfect beauty and was presented in an anti-glamorous, neo-realist way. The context in which her work was produced in fashion and youth cultural magazines like The Face and Ray Gun showed a distinct contrast from traditional conventions used in fashion photography. The photo Georgina, Brixton comes from a time frame in which Day shot various images that we compiled into her first book ‘Diary’ in 2000. Her work is dubbed as ‘heroin chic’, however Day maintains that her photos are as close to real life as possible, as opposed to the fakery of fashion. Day mentions that her influences are music and the implies in an interview with The Observer that her work comes from the life around her.

Models, Themes and Mags: Imperfect Beauty, Who is Georgina?, The Face Magazine, The Face Through the Years

I found from this line of research how Day has an intimate and personal way of working with her sitters, mainly models. She is associated with the beginnings of Kate Moss’ career, as well as the controversy that founded criticisms of pedophilia in the editorial ‘Third Summer of Love’ shot for The Face in 1990. This lead to problems between the two, not allowed to work together by Moss’ agency. Day has prowess in getting models notices through her unique style like then overlooked model Georgina Cooper. She features in the photo in which Day describes less sexed-up and glamorous fashion, a myth held that this is they way in which all models lead their lives. Instead, Day uses a dirty-realist style, less attractive and what I found as being imperfections in beauty. This theme is constant in Day’s work, explaining her intentional use of androgynous, ‘waif’ skinny and ‘less typical’ models. Other themes in her work surround youth culture, like sex, music, drugs as well as fashion, however stylish or not. I also saw how Day’s work sits well in 80s founded magazine The Face, originally a music mag, and later influential in fashion. The youthful target market of The Face related to the themes and style of Day’s work.

80s Intertextuality: History, Culture, Photography, Fashion

I began researching this decade to intertextualize Day’s work and photo Georgina, Brixton. I felt that this would be significant as Day would have been in her late teens and earlier twenties in this decade, and her youth cultural elements in the photo would have a relation to her experiences. I found from this links that I could carry over to her work, like a nonchalant attitude and rebellious nature, post-modern discourses expression distrust in major establishments, especially with the government under Margret Thatcher and the early depression fueling anger in the 80s. Riots happened like those in Brixton in this decade and testimonies on BBC explain how ‘everyone was on a warpath’ and a cynical atmosphere. This criticality was evident in British social documentary with photographers like Graham Smith, Chris Killip and Martin Parr who photographed in this time period. I also found how popular media was widely available across various formats, and how styles like Ska were popularized with groups like The Specials. I also found how themes in music by Day was influenced could be found in some way in her work, and how media texts are framed by other texts. The decade was also celebratory, with people playing out the fantasies and having fun with fashion, and the idea of being free and doing what ever you want played its course in youth culture. Fashion photography was far in contrast with fashion using sex to sell, and simply representing ‘unattainable’ fantasies surrounding beauty, wealth and lifestyle. The decade also coincided with the rise of the supermodel as a more prominent part of popular culture, with advancing media technologies and more and more fashion advertisements and availability to the mass.

Heroin Chic: Larry Clark, Nan Goldin, Juergen Teller, Corinne Day, Davide Sorrenti

I found out that this is a major trend in fashion in which Day’s work constitutes, and spilled out of the magazine and into society. It hard to say whether the photos depicting heroin abuse influence its presence in fashion or simply reflect it. The photographers in this style would argue the latter, careful not to be seen as glamorizing drugs. I also found how their works were similar to Day’s and the photo ‘Georgina, Brixton’ allowing me to realise how heroin chic could be considered a genre within itself. The controversy with Heroin Chic peaked with the death of Davide Sorrenti who died tragically due to a blood condition.

I want to see if  I can answer simply the questions posed towards the beginning of the blog using knowledge of what I’ve researched:

  • Content Who is Georgina, What is going on?

The subject is a fashion model called Georgina Cooper, who modeled in the 90’s and still has a contract with Premier model management. The photo depicts her as if having taking drugs (whether true to life or not).

  • Intention Why so candid, How did she do it, As close as you can, Learn to be creative?

The candidacy and lack of styling to the photo emphasizes Day’s contempt for clean and less realistic fashion photography, and aims to present and more close to life image. She photographed using film, with photo being a c-type print, and presumably shot many photos of the one scene and edited them down to select the grittiest anti-glamorous shot. There is a more documentary style to the photo Georgina, Brixton, appears not to be retouched and the choice of media, photography, is argued as taking images as close to real life as possible.

  • Context Brixton, 1995, Everyday life?

The locations are representative of the subjects life, Day shooting in their own flats and houses. The photos appearing in 1995 match trends withing fashion and photography, the dirty glamour started in the 60s. It’s in line with youth culture and body image referred to in heroin chic, and poses itself as more representative of everyday life, rather than fictional unattainable traditional fashion imagery.

  • Themes Heroin Chic, Anti-Glamour, Conventional Beauty, Controversy?

Heroin Chic is a style in which Day’s work is seen, and is argued as glamorizing drug use through it’s explicit presentation in magazines like The Face and Ray Gun magazine. It is part of an anti-glamour style, ironically becoming a glamorous trend used in major Calvin Klein trends, first noted by artists like Larry Clark and Nan Goldin. It is controversial for its explicitness, and reached its peak in condemnation with Bill Clinton (ex-president of U.S.A.) speaking out against it after the death of Davide Sorrenti, a photographer involved with the style and tragic lifestyle of heroin chic. The notion of conventional beauty ties in with conventional fashion imagery, and is protested against by photographers like Terry Richardson, and commonly argued as as fictional and more of a lie. Day challenged this conventional beauty with use of androgynous models, limited use of retouching and accordance to the ‘waif’ look that depicts as fashion incredibly skinny models.

  • Additional Questions:
  1. Anti-glamorous? Yes although it created a new trend. The work can be seen as anti-glamour is it opposes fashion photography.
  2. Success? Her photos are successful in raising concerns about reality and the use of drugs in the fashion industry however unintentional.
  3. Influences? Their are influences of music, and Day describes people in her work. Her models’ surroundings influence the photographs as well as the social and historical context of her work.
  4. Similar works? Yes her work constitutes to a wider genre and style in which photographers before and after her produced work.

I have posted a few more drafts that I had based on media analysis. I have also rearranged some posts for coherency. I am quite happy with my blog, and feel that I have worked incredibly hard in the last few days. I don’t think I have allowed the quality to suffer event though I have let myself suffer. I now know not to underestimate such a task like research, and feel that I would be prepared to produce another. I would need to manage my time a lot more efficiently, but failure to do so this time around isn’t unsurprising, adjusting into university, living on my own, and developing my own study habits. I do regret however that I haven’t managed to meet the depth of work that could have been met with more intensive and rigorous study. I could have looked at more books surrounding media and fashion theory, photography and books to do with youth culture and gender, sex and drugs. I managed to use a few journal sources which was helpful, and the books that I used where sufficient in giving me wider context of Day’s work. The media analytical techniques proved effective as well as over-running topics from other modules like Approaches to Media, allowing me to briefly apply Barthes and Baudrillard to Georgina, Brixton and heroin chic.

However, it is now time that I start to wrap-up the blog. I still have a few more entries to publish, and the final tasks to do as well as proof reading the blog before submission on Monday midnight.

  1. Research Findings
  2. iMap
  3. Writing Plan (for critical review)
  4. Critical review
  5. Bibliography

I also think I’ll do some form of a contents page.

…Lévi-Strauss (1969a) explored the logical-universal life to which he claimed collective systems of classification could be seen to lead. If Chomsky could argue for underlying grammatical structures of which every language and every speech-act might be said to be transformations, then Lévi-Strauss determined that comparably unconscious, deep structures of symbolic classification, albeit now culturally derived, inhabited the minds of socialized individuals. A structural anthropology might chart the vast network of transformations and variations by which the classificatory systems of different cultures and times were linked and the transformatory principles (such as binary opposition) by which this was effected. (Rapport, Overing, 2000, 35)

Im going to apply what I’ve learnt from this approach to the photograph and see what I get from this.

Model : Real Person

Fake World : Real Life

Synthetic : Natural

Glamour : Anti-Glamour

Fashionable : Unfashionable

Posed : Off-guard

Clean : Dirty

Retouched : Raw

Lie : Truth

Culture : Nature

The binary opposites in the photo are a constant theme. Day tries to present imagery that is the opposite of what is typically regarded as fashion. It is only typical that her photos would be considered a new type of fashion especially since that is the context in which her photos of this anti-glamour style where published. In the photo (Georgina, Brixton) there are two major areas where the opposites are most effective.

The first is within the subject; through prior research I know that Georgina is a model, however the depiction of her in the photo would suggest otherwise as it did for me initially. Day creates this disassociation by presenting the model at her least presentable, least attractive and least glamorous. Day talks about the phony poses and faces in fashion, whereas there is a greater sense of truth in the off-guard model. It’s to say that the realer person in presented here, however awkward, and makes a distinction between Georgina the model and Georgina the person. Day challenges contemporary beliefs of the ‘life of a model’, presumed glamorous and expensive, with the high fashion and big money commercials, and instead documents the opposite, perhaps more truthful. From her work with Kate Moss, I presume that the photo was taken in Georgina’s flat/house, and if not somewhere where the model naturally would have been. The surroundings suggest the opposite of luxury and expense, along with the dirtiness and presents a less aspirational image of beauty.

Day emphasizes these oppositions with her photographic style, not staged, nor directed nor planned. The photo is left raw, without heavy retouching thus a grater sense of validity. I’m unsure as to whether Day wants us to be able to relate to the person rather than the model, the truth rather than the fiction. I say this as the real life depiction by Day as truth, may be untrue in the sense that the photo was chosen out of what I guess would be many, to fit Day’s intention. The next photo may have shown her smiling. So the line between the real and fake are uncertain, as through accepting the typical fashion imagery as fake, we can contextualize that as part of what we understand as true, whereas Day’s presentation may represent a minority and more subjective aspect of ‘the life of a model’.

The culture nature distinction can be made here easily, with the fashion as a cultural creation, however I’m hesitant to call the photo natural for the same given reasons as before, and the idea that in the present day, the photo reflects an ideal that is already associated with the fashion industry and showbiz, that of a drug fueled, grungy rock and roll image. So what may have been regarded as natural is more cultural, and like a sub-culture which is used as creative image in fashion and music.

I think this approach has been successful in helping me analyse the photo in another way.


Last edited by joshuahastingscmp on November 8, 2010 at 6:56 pm

I think I may have got a bit side tracked with the heroin chic, but it was vital in understanding the relationship between drugs and fashion, and youth culture to some extent. The style definitely has a dark aspect, which proves to be quite appealing. The direct connectedness between real life youth culture and what was presented by those involved with heroin chic increases the ability to relate with the imagery that perhaps made the style that much more alluring and recognizable. It is interesting to think that the lies involved with retouched and fake imagery seem safer than presenting the truth which is demonized and essentially glamorizing real life? One may argue that we shouldn’t take the images that we see as true, but if there is some element in a dirty glamorous photo that one can relate with, it begins to blur the line between true and false, real and fake.

In Tuesday 23rd Approaches to Media class, we looked at Jean Baudrillard and his definitions of reality as a western construct, and the loss of reality from being saturated by media. You could argue from this, is heroin chic influencing drug abuse or vice versa. Either which way, the consequence of drugs is a issue far larger than whether or not Day is glamorizing drug taking. There must be factors that run deeper that would lead someone into a life style depicted in works like ‘The Ballard of Sexual Dependency” or “Tulsa” more than the images themselves. After all, looking at imagery of drugs is less of a pull that if someone was to be physically surrounded by them.

I have also learnt from this diversion, how heroin chic isn’t a unique British style, nor fixed to a certain decade. It has deep associations with youth culture, as Clark explored, teenage angst, and was present in the U.S. I would say from this that it would be hard to argue Day as the pioneer of this style, since it hard been done, maybe not in the same way, but similar enough from as far back as the 60s to the 90s in which Day worked.

I also am beginning to challenge the idea of anti-glamour, as heroin chic and Georgina, Brixton constitute a new type of glamour, dirty glamour. It is ever present with musicians famed by their illicit acts and drug association as if and identity, like Amy Winehouse.

Amy Winehouse by Terry Richardson

I think I need to look at finishing my research, and finally post my drafts applying the research methods and media analysis learnt to the Georgina, Brixton photo.


Amy Winehouse by Terry Richardson [online image] available from