Anne Rethinks 'Flawless', Third-Tier Male Photographers & Values That Matter

Time For An Anne Check

How fitting that as I sit down to grab time to talk to readers — asking myself what visuals will I use — that I discover these luscious images of Victoria’s Secret Angels Candice Swanepoel and Doutzen Kroes in the new Flawless campaign.

The golden hues of the images remind me of a G5 flight to Paris years ago with three other VS executives — all women. I sat sipping scotch on the rocks, looking down into the Atlantic asking myself how the girl from Minnesota, who used to call the NYPD when she found drunks lying on the streets of New York found herself flying in this gorgeous jet across the Atlantic, listening to a conversation about gold water faucets.

When the jet landed at Paris Le Bourget Airport, our flight met by my regular driver who took us to our regular luxury hotel, I knew that I was leaving my job as fashion director of Victoria’s Secret to return to subjects that matter deeply to me.

After all, ‘flawless’ is not a word in my vocabulary, and I consider it to be one of the most debilitating words to women’s psyches used in the fashion and beauty industries.

A Passion for Ideas That Matter

I began writing Anne of Carversville in 2007, inspired by Angelina Jolie’s excellent interview with Esquire Magazine. I called the piece Smart Sensuality Angelina Jolie: Virtue Considered in Carversville’s Country Air.

It marked a gradual return of my passion for women’s rights, as I was swept into my still active fight to stop the flogging of 40,000 women a year in Sudan for inappropriate dress and also the Republican War on Women in America.

The start of AOC marked my rise as a known activist in the Arab world, with my passionate essays on the impact of ultra conservative, religious values on women’s lives translated into Arabic by women in Egypt. I found myself increasingly banned in countries in the region, although the intellectual community has a system of underground, constantly moving proxy servers that continue to make my voice available to activists and educated readers. 

Creating the term Smart Sensuality woman made for a coherent concept understood and embraced by many AOC readers, often more conservative women with values similar to mine — even if I inspire them with my rebellious spirit and progressive stance on gender issues.

We are smart, sensual — instinctively preferring peonies to daisies — and have great heart for people in need.

What we share is a questioning unease with not only the most conservatives values that control women’s lives but also the most liberal ones that eradicate any grounding of sensuality in the sacred. The fact that I gave voice to these concerns with passion and sincerity brought AOC a complex and diverse readership.

A Flirtation With Fashion Photographers

I know that more is not better. Big is not better. And yet in late 2010 I began posting fashion editorials daily. My closest friends know that I’m highly performance oriented, grading myself with far tougher expectations than my own readers do.

As Anne of Carversville gained significant traction and a sizeable audience, it was inevitable that certain photographers would reach out to me. We’re not talking Mario Testino, Greg Kadel, Giampolo Sgura, or a host of top photographers I reference daily. Believe it or not, I’ve heard from some of these photographers, who showered praise on me and AOC. They are not my problem.

The sources of internal conflict, wasted time, disrespect, and empty promises tend to be third-tier male, going nowhere photographers of a certain age. The age factor didn’t hit me until a close male friend pointed out that fact last week. How fascinating.

Honesty and Authenticity Matter

You know how a guy will often say anything just to get you to go to bed with him? That can be the case with bloggers and male fashion photographers wanting exposure of a nonsexual nature — and Catholic brothers, too, in my case. After telling me he would defend me against the onslaught of criticism certain to accompany our mutual blog, he asked that I remember him in my will. It was just another form of seduction.

In the past year, one photographer — exhibit A for whom I’ve advocated aggressively — sent me an editorial created just for me as a thank you for those efforts. Minutes before an assistant released the draft, he sent an emergency email explaining that in reality the editorial was submitted to months prior and guess what, they had published the editorial that morning.

In my world, his words are called lying.

Photographer exhibit B also enjoyed a personal relationship with me, although I always made it clear to him and everyone else that I was curating our content and felt no obligation to publish every editorial. Last fall I received an email from him, asking me why I hadn’t published one of his editorials that I found to be very mediocre.

I answered in earnest, taking perhaps 20 minutes of my time to explain why I hadn’t published the editorial. In a madcap sequence of emails, it became obvious that the photographer never even read my email because his assistant was writing me emails under his name.

Communicating under false pretenses is a big deal to me, and I wrote so. The Parisian photographer suggested that I was emotionally overwrought and was there anything he could do to help me take a chill pill. He totally dismissed my concern that I had no knowledge of when I was communicating with him versus someone posing as him.

No one has ever written an email under my name, not being me.

The Parisian photographer Exhibit B sent me a second editorial a month later, one I deliberately didn’t publish on principle. This guy had a major public run-in with Joanna at FGR, which is how I came to know him. It occurred to me that perhaps one didn’t say ‘no’ to this individual.

When the third editorial from Exhibit B arrived, it did go into our normal queue — which is never short at AOC where we now publish 15-20 fashion editorials a day. Minutes before its release, I received a barn-burner email from Exhibit B detailing all my grevous offences against him with demands that I publish his editorial at once.

As you might imagine, I will never again publish anything from this photographer. It’s a free country, and these photographers expect a world of time and energy from me because … I don’t know … because they are third-rate male photographers, and I owe them? Call me clueless.

Publishing Sexy 14-Year Girls To Fight The Taliban

When I first checked in to share my thought this evening, I was prepared to detail a long list of photographer grievance exhibits. In the last month, I’ve had multiples, which is why I’m getting out of the submissions game.

For the record, I have no grievances with the women photographers, who treat me with great respect and admiration. I’m certain there are equally bad apples in their barrel, but these women haven’t crossed my path. There is a gender-based aspect to this disrespect for Anne from low-level male photographers needing me to go big-time.

More than one has told me that my writing and support are priceless in a portfolio. Their thank you notes are totally bizarre then.

In truth, it would be boring to discuss them all tonight, so I’ll finish with Exhibit C, the most agregious man of all and again, one that I have championed. In January he asked me to promote his upcoming June photography exhibit, and I did. A few months ago, he asked me to promote his upcoming photography exhibit, and I told him that I already had done so.

Minutes later he wrote an email telling me that I was wrong to favorably like a fashion editorial that day, because this photographer was not considered first rate within the fashion community of Paris. He insinuated that I should retract my comments, leaving me incredulous at his audacity.

These words were the second offence from Exhibit C, for whom I had lost great respect when he took me to task for not publishing his sensual offering of a young 14-year-old girl. Employing pressure tactics with me, Exhibit C actually had the mother of the young woman write me, also pressuring me to publish the photos.

I explained that I honor the Conde Nast policy of not knowingly publishing editorials of girls under 16, and certainly those in sensual images, where we do our best to track down the age of the model.

In one of the most self-serving comments ever made to me in life, Exhibit C explained that I must publish the images of his sweet young thing to fight the Taliban. Yes, he took my international women’s rights efforts and twisted them to fit his own personal promotion agenda.

Back To Smart Sensuality Basics At AOC

Bottom line, Anne has evaluated her daily life over the past few days, and I intend to make significant changes. AOC will continue to publish fashion editorials across our channels — but only ones that I truly love. We will return to fewer posts and more substantative essays on topics that matter to me personally.

When the topic is page views, my own writing on any topic delivers far greater page views than almost any fashion editorial, except the most sensual — which I will continue to publish. Officially and for the record, my purpose in life is not to promote fledgling photographers with no revenue base to myself. For that you have agents.

What I gladly do for free is to write about ideas and problems that matter in the world of women’s rights. I received a most powerful email Friday night — one that I will return to read a second time this evening. She set me straight on my real value in women’s lives and in her own journey to divorce and self-love through my writing.

It’s impossible to know self-love in our world of ‘flawless women’ from Victoria’s Secret or any other brand, sensual guilt, patriarchal values, environmental destruction, and men like Roman Polanski who said in Cannes last week that aiming for female equality is “a great pity”. Polanski uses his film Venus in Fur, to argue that “trying to level the genders is purely idiotic.”

“Offering flowers to a lady has become indecent … The pill has greatly changed the place of women in our times, masculinising her. It chases away the romance in our lives.”

Whether it’s the Vatican or Roman Polanski arguing against the right of women to control our reproductive lives, it’s time for Anne to get back to basics. There is no grace or satisfaction in being berated by third-tier male photographers demanding that I explain myself to them or suggesting that I have succumbed to irrational, womanly behavior in not seeing their brilliance. 

I have the respect of top photographers of both genders, and I will continue to earn it.

Create your own creative credentials — you creative male geniuses misunderstood by the fashion industry —  and you won’t need me. I must return to topics that matter: creativity, sensuality, beauty, women’s rights, religion and women, sexual politics and an endless stream of topics more important then a daily deluge of fashion editorials that at the end of the day stand for nothing. AOC is far more relevant than that, and so am I. ~ Anne