TFB: Exploitation or Success?

When I first saw this photo of Tragic Fashion Boy, I felt a mixture of outrage and sorrow. It’s part of some fashion shoot but it looks like child pornography. Is it the bony little torso that makes it upsetting?

Here, he looks healthier. Sort of.

Tragic Fashion Boy as Twiggy, part of a boys-as-girls editorial in Candy magazine.

Here is a teenager who wanted to be part of the high-fashion scene, and has clearly achieved his goal. Is he being exploited, or is this a success story? What is your first reaction?

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48 Responses to TFB: Exploitation or Success?

  1. Sister Wolf says:

    Romeo – Yuck isn’t really an answer, Romeo.

  2. sharnek says:

    First reaction is shock, then sadness. Are these really images (espeically the 1st) we should be promoting to teens? Is this where teen fashion editorial is going? Someone please give tfb a hug and then a meal, he needs some caring for.

  3. Dru says:

    Further question: how different is this from the practice of putting girls even younger than this very pretty boy in pictures much like this?
    Especially given that the girls are, unlike this boy*, often far away from their families and don’t have anyone to stick up for them against actual exploitation that goes far beyond just the way they’re portrayed in a photograph?

    *I’m making the assumption that he has a family because people mention seeing him with his mother sometimes.

  4. Dru says:

    Note: I didn’t mean to imply that male models don’t have problems too, but I know very little about their average age/work conditions so didn’t mention them.

  5. Library Lady says:

    My first reaction is i want to feed him a hearty home-cooked meal. And maybe give him a hug. It’s piteous. My first reaction – that is, my instinctive one, not an intellectual one – is that it’s somehow inherently creepily wrong, this boy presented like this.

  6. E says:

    Well the lighting on the first pix is all about emphasizing the boniness.
    I don’t know how old the boy is but skinny+growth spurt sometimes = this.
    And some peeps are – just – super-skinny – let’s not stigmatize that.

    On the other hand I think the combo of the skinny and the squickiness of the styling/lighting and so on is disturbing – which may be the intent. The whole thing looks a bit freakshow – what has it got do do with fashion? Honestly – I think this is all about the stylist/photographer/editor and nothing to do with anything else.

    Makes a change from photoshop grotesques I suppose.

  7. Claire says:

    I think it’s off to put a teenager in a hat that shouts “NAZIS! NAZIS! NAZIS!”. Especially just for fashion.

    I’m guessing it’s a visual tribute to that movie I forget the name of, but.. not all homages are appropriate.

  8. i wanna feed him.

    ….. thank you for saying am some kind of pretty, i need that. i am bloated beyond description.

  9. BethUK says:

    It seems like the intention of the picture is to make him look as vulnerable as possible. I always find that creepy when it inolves younger models. Possibly because their age already makes the vulnerable.

    The skull hat is also a bit creepy – it has dodgy dictator written all over it.

    Finally, it’s not a fashion picture if there aren’t any clothes in it (the dodgy dictator hat doesn’t count). Fashion pictures are about selling things, usually the things that are in the picture. If all that you can see is a supposedly naked teenager with a creepy hat on then we have to ask ourselves – what are they selling?

    I guess it could be the curtains.

  10. the real andrea says:

    The first shot makes me feel so sorry for him. He looks anorexic. But in the second shot, he is obviously posing as Twiggy, and probably loves the fact that he is now a somewhat fashion insider. He may be being taken advantage of by the magazine, (selling more magazines= more money) but he probably doesn’t think so. It’s kind of pathetic.

  11. Cricket9 says:

    Claire, you are probably thinking about “Night Porter” – a creepy movie with Charlotte Rampling and Dick Bogarte; here’s a link to the movie’s poster:
    The first picture is deliberately creepy and squicky – probably would be quite appealing to a pedophile with a Nazi fetish; the second – nothing interesting IMO – clothes are really ugly. Candy magazine, what’s the point of these pictures?

  12. rebecca says:

    It looks like a bit of self-exploitation to me. I mean, yeah, the fashion industry will usually push its boundaries until the public is outraged enough to stop it (eg, Terry Richardson), but the people who do these things are blindly driven by the lust for fame. What is worse? Both, in my opinion, lack integrity. It strikes me as unbelievably sad that people are happy to lose themselves completely just for fame.

    My husband was a male model for a while, when we were discussing the whole Richardson thing a while back he pointed out that it was just as bad for men. He’d had so many situations where he walked out of jobs, or lost jobs, because people wanted to either have sex with him or for him to, erm, service them, and he eventually quit the business because of it.

  13. Emily Bleak says:

    I can only hope that he’s putting the earnings from his young modeling career into a college fund, because he won’t be able to keep his weight down forever.

  14. Bessie the Buddha Cow says:

    You cannot be successful if you are not healthy: physically, emotionally, etc. The first photo is freaking creepy. Child porn, definitely. Tfb looks like some prison keeper’s boy toy, anorexicly bone thin as seductive? I don’t think so. And the Nazi skull cap thingy tops it off (pardon the pun). It’s just creepy. There’s nothing attractive or seductive for a normal, healthy person in that photo. It’s selling some sort of perverse/weird/creepy/malevolent role playing . . . or worse.
    In the second photo tfb looks like some alien creature that despises humanity, and is playing dress up so he can infiltrate humanity and destroy it. I’ve never been mad dogged by a photo, but there’s always a first time.
    If that were my son I’d slap him silly, feed him lots of rice and beans, and then deal with the photographer . . . with my horns and hoofs.

  15. Bessie the Buddha Cow says:

    “if he was” my son! Sorrry for the typo.

  16. Tragic Fashion Boy CREEPS ME OUT. That second photo makes him look like he’s eating an orange (you know when you were a kid, and you’d shove a quarter-segment in your mouth…no, just me).
    And I’m sure he knows exactly what he’s doing. A friend of mine is a photographer and I was invited to style one of his shoots. I met the model, who from her portfolio looked sweet and naive despite all the topless pics, but when I met her she was very self-assure, confident and normal. I hope TFB is the same. Only he’s thinner.

  17. PS How old is TFB, btw? (too much text-speak)

  18. Mathilde says:

    He has his own blog and he seems to quite like styling himself in this naked gaunt fashion.

  19. Liz!! says:

    Holy crap, the pictures on his blog are awful!

    He looks like he’s 13 to me, so I couldn’t even look at the pictures for a second without feeling dirty.

    Holy friggin’ crap. I don’t even know what to say.

  20. dust says:

    My first though was what a perfect model for those images.
    He’s a wee bit skinny, but he’s still young and developing, not too pretty either…
    The photos didn’t suggested me anything disgusting, just a thing to look at, something that some photographer did with some weird kid, on the set, with hair and make up team, styling and assistants.
    That Twiggy image is as perfect as the Hollywood happy-end, in some perspective, that even counts as success.
    He made the pictures believable, even if I prefer not to believe the pictures.

  21. E says:

    TFB is …

    “Seventeen-year-old Charles Guislain fancies himself “the goth counterpoint to Tavi,” but he doesn’t even have a blog – or a high-school diploma (yet). What he does have is a keen sense of style, first discovered by cult journo Diane Pernet, and later adored by the fashion-loving masses on YouTube. And though he’s already been featured in Italian Vogue, he still makes time to read Rimbaud, Barthes, and Proust.”

  22. theresa says:

    he has sad eyes

  23. Seriously he is malnourished. I feel for him because I can imagine the drive/need to achieve this. He does wear lipstick well but don’t worry Andre Leon Talley was once a skinny thing.

    Perhaps he reads a lot of Camus.

  24. Helen says:

    I think it’s problematic and depressing for somebody to make themselves a concept – and this case is pretty extreme since the conceptualization is based on so obviously disturbing things. It makes me immensely sad to see that this is what the public obviously wants – why else would this boy be famous?

    On another note – I checked out his blog (thanks Mathilde) and I have to say, he’s good at photographing. I’m impressed – never thought much about him but when I did, I thought there was little more to him than expensive clothes and pretentiousness. I’m also jealous, he’s obviously very wealthy to afford the cameras and films he uses.

  25. Aja says:

    First reaction: he’s loving it! Good for him.

  26. Miasma says:

    I feel a mixture of sadness, rage, and like the FBI should be busting my door down soon. I’m going to feel like a hypocrite saying this (because I’ve always liked fashion), but I believe that kids really have no business being near the fashion scene because it promotes way too much negative bullshit.

    Also: Did Terry Richardson photograph this? It has that terry richardson creepy feel to it…

  27. enna. says:

    I was on board with the first photo until I scrolled down and saw his ribs.

    He looks so sad.

  28. Sayward says:

    For fashion, I find it meh, and maybe even borderline bothersome (I can definitely see why the argument’s being made).

    But for art, I find it provocative and interesting.

    Don’t ask me to explain the difference, it’s a gut thing.

    It should be noted I was doing nudie editorial shoots at 16 too, so I may have a skewed perspective.

  29. K-Line says:

    My first reaction was to think he has an eating disorder. Of course, I can’t say if that’s the case (this is the first time I’ve ever seen him and I know nothing about him), but that’s what came to mind first.

  30. Dru says:

    K-Line- it’s kind of unfair to assume that- some people are naturally skinny, it may have been your instinctive reaction but that’s how some people look especially at his age.

  31. sam says:

    It doesn’t float my boat but I can understand the whole idea – its kind of interesting dressing up a young boy to look like Twiggy – maybe he was off to Halloween party?
    Anyhoo its all part of the whole model-fashion-wanking industry and thats always been about a certain shock/pushing boundaries/out of left field approach – once upon a time men and young boys did wear make-up and used to adorned themselves in a feminine way- its just that a woman was there first with this Twiggy look thats why it makes us feel uncomfortable.
    As for his visible bones, he may be just a skinny kid – my husband has a skinny son who is constantly eating, and I mean constantly – its just the way he’s put together.
    As long as this kid isn’t being exploited then I don’t care – at the end of the day its us – joe public- that are being exploited if we buy into it.

  32. K-Line says:

    Hi Dru: I was asked for first reaction. I gave it – acknowledging that it was perhaps inaccurate. Of course, there are people of all shapes at all ages.

  33. Dave C says:

    My first reaction was ‘Wow, TFB wants to be a rent boy, his mother must be so proud’. I can’t imagine why he would want to portray himself like this other than for the sake of misguided, narcissistic ambition, but on the evidence of his own extremely creepy self portraits I reckon he’s more than up for it, so I guess it’s both exploitation and success. But at what price?

    BTW the first pic ain’t Nazi fetishism – it’s ‘Crimean Death Chic’.

  34. Cricket9 says:

    Dave C- crimean – is in “from Crimea”??? I’m puzzled. Could you please elaborate?

  35. Kathleen says:

    As one who was once that thin, while eating myself silly trying to gain, my instinctual reaction to the 1st pic is to be a bit nostalgic for my ribs, which I haven’t seen in years- but also a lot like “Oh crap! Is that a naked kid? Eww!”, and a little bit of “Hey, cool hat.”

    The Twiggy pic I simply enjoy.

  36. Kathleen says:

    Helen- where did you find out what cameras he uses?

  37. Helen says:

    Kathleen, they are visible in a bunch of his shots (mirror self-portraits) and he’s tagged some of his posts, too. I spotted a Leica from the M-series, a classic film Hasselblad (500cm or similar) and a Sinar F2. It seems like all the square shots (most of his photos) are taken with the Hasselblad.

  38. james says:

    Diane Pernet LOVES him!

  39. Joy D. says:

    DP does love him but the “Twiggy” editorial is a little much.

  40. Dave C says:

    Hi Cricket 9 – as in the Crimean War.

  41. Constance says:

    He’s a skinny teen going through a phase.If he was my kid I would advice him to leave the pretentious literary name dropping alone, and get a bit of fresh hair, he always looks seriously mouldy, maybe a spot of surfing would do him go…

  42. Dave C – Lol at Crimean Death Chic, sounds like a style challenge to me!

  43. Cricket9 says:

    Thanks Dave C, got it!

  44. Mia Meow says:

    Jesus, this is really BAD.
    I’m feeling this society has gone totally insane…I am all for crazy fashion a la Carine Roitfeld fucks with Gaga but even SUCH fashion can be shown on NORMAL-LOOKING PEOPLE. I understand that showing anorexic skeletons gives more (wtf) atmosphere to the photoshoot and yaddayaddyadda, but it’s a very bad example to everyone, esp. teens. @_@

  45. Jean says:

    Oh guys ! This is Charles Guislain and he is a fashionblogger. I think he is healthy and he can eat alone. You don’t need to feed him.

  46. Jean says:

    Why do you say that he shows anorexic !? You don’t even know that he has got anorexic !

  47. Odile Lee says:

    I like the first photo. I also like Night Porter, uniforms, makeup for guys, and I was a death rocker.( Also, really really skiiiiinny.)
    So to me he looks, well normal. But hey,Im a freak.

    Why does everyone worry over skinnies, like we all have some disease? (Right enough that pref post, where that girl seriously looked, if not actually starving, possibly dead.)Seriously, more people die from disease issues due to obesity factors.
    Im thin because Im allergic to EVERYTHING ( had a long illness, and now can’t eat anything yummy.)
    Its great about looking good in clothes, crap when it comes to meals.

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