What makes images controversial?


Wayne-Rooney-Nike-Ad.jpgThink what you will about the World Cup (football, as played with the feet, as opposed to the type you, er, don’t), but it has spawned a couple of interesting discussion in the media world – most recently, about Wayne Rooney, posing Jesus-style, whilst painted in the St George’s cross.

I couldn’t give two pence about football, but the discussion extremely interesting to me – I started to think about why a photo can become controversial, even if its separate elements are relatively inoffensive.  


Interestingly enough, I soon stumbled across an article on PhotographyBLOG, which deals exactly with the issue.

What makes an image controversial? Apparently daubing a famous footballer with red paint and having him shout at the camera will do it. But what else? In recent times different images have had a similar effect. Take Jason Bell’s cover shot of Kate Winslet for GQ. When it hit the newsstands the media whipped themselves up into a frenzy. The reason? Curvy Kate’s legs had suddenly slimmed down thanks to some fast Photoshop work courtesy of the magazine’s art team. On that occasion the photographer was as surprised as everyone else and it opened up the whole digital is the devil debate.

But what about if, like the Rooney picture, it is the content which is considered controversial? Dutch photographer Erwin Olaf is known for his inflammatory imagery. The award-wining image maker has in the past depicted children in black PVC bondage gear (using a child mannequin with the eyes later inserted in Photoshop) and for Royal Blood he had a Princess Diana look-alike splattered with blood and a BMW badge imbedded in her arm. The photograph is stunning, beautifully shot and thought-provoking, but also highly provocative and some think distasteful.

Interesting thoughts indeed – read the whole article by Greer McNally over at PhotographyBLOG!

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