To some, nothing is more unsettling than the use of children in adult-themed portraits.
There was the recent snafus with actress Hailee Steinfeld for Miu Miu and Dakota Fanning for Marc Jacobs and the ads’ portrayal of young girls. Over the summer, critics lambasted French Vogue for its use of over-sexualized images of 10-year-old model Thylane Loubry Blondeau.
Now there is the “Smoking Kids” pictorial spread. Belgian photographer Freike Janssens was inspired by the YouTube video of the two-year-old Indonesian smoking baby who chain smoked 40 cigarettes a day.
So she developed “Smoking Kids.” The glamour shot series includes 15 portraits of children, dressed in various ornate garments, smoking cigarettes. They are meant to visually mimic adult figures, like military personnel and Old Hollywood actresses.
Titled “The beauty of an ugly addiction,” Janssens supposedly confronts viewers with the contradiction of an unhealthy habit and the alluring attraction of cigarette smoking.
The children in the photos are between the ages of four and nine. They are surrounded by clouds of smoke as they hold the lit cigarettes in various poses. The cigarettes are not real, rather they are made of cheese.
Why use children instead of adults in photos meant to critique smoking and the legal censures of it?
“By portraying adults as children all the attention went to the smoking. An adult would draw to [sic] much attention to the portrayed person,” wrote ILoveBelgium.
“Thus these portraits evoke question such as: is the smoking ban the right way to get rid of an absurd addiction and are smokers treated like little kids who can’t make the difference between good and bad?”
Janssens was supposedly struck by the YouTube video of the smoking Indonesian toddler. She felt that there was a disparity between regional reactions over the issue. Americans were shocked, whereas Indonesians (and the parents themselves) viewed the smoking as completely commonplace.
This series comes on the heels of the general smoking ban introduced in Belgium a few months ago.
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