Francesco Scavullo was a well-known fashion photographer whose most noteworthy work was done in the ’60s and ’70s. These include a series on actress and model Brooke Shields which began when she was still a toddler and progressed on through her young adult years. One of the images from that series can be seen below. Often when this image is displayed online, it is cropped just above Shields’s nipples; it’s rare to see the full image. Shields is, of course, known for her roles in such films as Pretty Baby, The Blue Lagoon and Wanda Nevada, as well as numerous television roles.
Around the same time Scavullo photographed another young girl, Yasmine Bleeth, who had not yet become an actress but was destined to become famous herself, mainly for her roles in soap operas and in the TV show Baywatch.
Scavullo photographed many other famous models and celebrities throughout his life. In fact, the 82-year-old Scavullo was on his way to photograph an up-and-coming news anchor named Anderson Cooper when he died of heart failure in 2004. His life partner, Sean Byrnes, has survived him. Mr. Scavullo also took photos for advertisements, at least one of which will appear in my next major post, which will be about girls in vintage soap ads.
While the two photos are indeed well done, the Brooke Shields one in particular is unfortunately very easy to take the wrong way – get a child to take off their shirt and take a photo, and suddenly it’s supposed to be art?
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying it’s inappropriate, but it can’t be held up as a very strong example of what the website seems to be saying, either. Given that Ms. Shields later came to hold herself as exploited in the process of such photography, perhaps a little more history into her past and background of these and other photos would be justified in another post? Maybe something on the nature of consent when the subject is technically too young to give it, and the parent has to sign it for them?
‘Easy to take the wrong way’ is quite often a hallmark of provocative art. That doesn’t make it any less artistic. I have read that Shields claims she was exploited, but I’ve also read that she later recanted that. And it’s difficult for me to see these images as exploitative when Shields continued to be photographed by Scavullo long into her adult years and in fact maintained a friendship with him until the end of his life. My hunch is that Shields claimed exploitation because certain factions of society expected her to, not because she genuinely felt that way. The photos by Gary Gross, et al lean much closer to exploitation in my book, but even there I think there’s value in the concept they present. But the Scavullo image is, to me, not that different from photos like those of Jock Sturges–it’s just a clean, minimalist portrait where the little girl is viewed in very pure terms. If we did not know Shields’ identity and her history, I don’t think most people (or at least those who see no problem with such images generally) would bat an eye at this. I also think it is mostly society who sexualizes the undeveloped chests of little girls but sees no problem with the chests of little boys, even though they’re physically identical. It is the potential for breast development that separates girls from boys, and to me that is at least borderline if not outright sexist.
Pip, THAT is what I always say, no matter if it is a famous child model or some “regular” kid on the beach.
A little girl is exactly the same above the waist as a little boy.
Therefore it is absurd to say that she must be covered on the top because she WILL BE a woman
Yes, I too have a personal peeve about images out of context. However, in defense of Pip, I know what it is like when you are doing research on an article and interesting images pop up. You feel a duty to let the readers know about them but you also know you will not be able to take the time to do a proper post. Now, Pip was unaware that I was planning a post on Scavullo and these are two of the most important images. Some of the photographer’s commentary on the models is quite fascinating. Regarding Brooke’s complaints about her nude photos, they were mainly directed toward Garry Gross who violated an implied contract about the use of those photos. Brooke was also concerned about being typecast and by the time she was in Blue Lagoon, she and her mother were very strict about the degree and presentation of nudity. The point of this photo showing a bit of bust was to demonstrate the effects of makeup on the appearance of the model. The torso has a clinical appearance of a girl child while her face is dolled up like a grownup. Scavullo was the photographer of the starts but he was trying to make a point about makeup here (as was Gross). My Scavullo post will be drawing from two books, Woman and On Beauty. -Ron
I notice that the specific Web address for that beautiful Brooke Shields picture includes the digit “2”.
Does that mean that there is ANOTHER Scavullo/Shields picture elsewhere on the site? if so, I would love to have the link to that page.
There are actually several images of Brooke Shields (at different ages) by Scavullo, but I don’t know which ones are featured at the site I linked to.
No, I meant here on Pigtails.
Oh, okay. That was how it was uploaded because I have two images of her in my collection, of which this is the second one. The first is mostly a head shot Brooke with her hair pulled back. You can see it here.