If you'd like to see Vice's beautifully-lit photograph of a model portraying Sylvia Plath kneeling before an open oven -- in a dress from Chloe Sevigny -- you're too late. That photo appeared in a fashion spread illustrating the suicides of female authors.
The photos, shot by Annabel Mehran, went online Monday; outcry ensued. On Tuesday morning, they'd been removed.
Vice has typically prided itself on being a provocative publication. Removing the photo shoot from its website might be seen as a turn for the magazine -- but of course, the photos can still be found in the print edition.
The fashion spread, called "Last Words," included an image of a model portraying author Iris Chang pointing a gun at her head, considered by many the most tasteless of the set. Chang was a first-generation Chinese American historian whose nonfiction book "The Rape of Nanking" became a bestseller. She committed suicide at age 36.
The ages of each author at their deaths, and the method of suicide, appeared as captions to the fashion shoot. So, too, did notations on the clothing and accessories that the models were wearing. Though this is typical in a fashion spread, the inclusion of the cost of the stockings that one woman (Taiwanese author Sanmao) was pictured using to hang herself was perhaps a bit much.
On its website, instead of the fashion spread, Vice now has this statement:
“Last Words” is a fashion spread featuring models reenacting the suicides of female authors who tragically ended their own lives. It is part of our 2013 Fiction Issue, one that is entirely dedicated to female writers, photographers, illustrators, painters, and other contributors.
The fashion spreads in VICE Magazine are always unconventional and approached with an art editorial point-of-view rather than a typical fashion photo-editorial one. Our main goal is to create artful images, with the fashion message following, rather than leading.
“Last Words” was created in this tradition and focused on the demise of a set of writers whose lives we very much wish weren’t cut tragically short, especially at their own hands. We will no longer display “Last Words” on our website and apologize to anyone who was hurt or offended.
The one who might be most offended is Dorothy Parker. While the sharp-witted author attempted suicide -- Vice included her, pictured her with wrists bleeding into a bathroom sink -- she lived to be 73. She may have had been an alcoholic, but she decided against killing herself. As she wrote in her poem Resumé:
Razors pain you;
Rivers are damp;
Acids stain you;
And drugs cause cramp.
Guns aren’t lawful;
Gas smells awful;
You might as well live.