'Migrant chic': Hungary photographer removes images
- 8 October 2015
- From the section Europe
A Hungarian photographer has taken down a fashion shoot inspired by migrants making the arduous journey through Europe after a barrage of criticism.
"Despite our intentions, many unfortunately consider the pictures offending," Norbert Baksa said.
Baksa's series Der Migrant showed a woman dressed in revealingly draped clothes struggling with a policeman and taking a selfie next to barbed wire.
Social media users had accused him of glamorising the migrants' plight.
"We have experienced a lot of negative feedback since the publication of our photo series Der Migrant, although more and more people recognise the true message behind the pictures and agree with it," Baksa told the BBC.
"Considering the heated emotions and because, despite our intentions, many unfortunately consider the pictures offending, we have decided to remove the series from our website."
Earlier, Baksa told the BBC he had not meant to offend anyone.
"It is meant to show that we cannot make a clear judgment on this issue," he said. "Depending on which media you read or watch, you see them as either refugee families fleeing for their lives or as masses of aggressive people. There is always another side to the story, that's what we wanted to say. Do not judge on partial information."
Images of desperate migrants - many fleeing the Syrian civil war - climbing over fences, attempting to evade police and resting exhausted in fields have filled the world's media.
Their travails have drawn mixed reactions around Europe - but Baksa's attempt to riff on their situation unleashed a storm of criticism.
Many of the comments on social media were particularly critical of three photos showing model Monika Jablonczky leaning against a barbed wire fence, her shirt wide open, taking a selfie with a smartphone bearing the logo of luxury brand Chanel.
Some said the images were disrespectful because many of the migrants come from conservative cultural backgrounds where revealing clothing is not commonly worn.
Baksa responded, tweeting that his images were based on news photographs already published in the Hungarian media, which he claimed showed both refugees fleeing for their lives and "aggressive migrants or terrorists".
In a statement on his website, Baksa said he wanted viewers to see "a suffering woman, who is also beautiful and despite her situation has some high-quality pieces of outfit and a smartphone".
He added that he had done his best to "respect people's faith and conviction and not to cross certain boundaries".
The reaction in Hungary to the big flows of migrants across its borders has seen some controversial moments.
Outspoken Prime Minister Viktor Orban has warned that Hungary is being "overrun" with refugees who threaten to undermine Europe's Christian roots, the country has built a razor wire fence along its southern border to keep migrants out, and a Hungarian camerawoman was filmed tripping up a migrant who was carrying his child.
However, Baksa said he did not think his photographs would damage his country's image as long as people "think about why the images were made".
Baksa's "migrant chic" series is not the first time a fashion shoot has courted controversy:
- In 2014, Indian photographer Raj Shteye caused outrage with images showing a model fighting off men on a bus in a scene reminiscent of the brutal gang rape and murder of a student on a bus in Delhi in 2012.
- Vogue magazine is known for provocative photo shoots, including showing models lying covered in oil on a beach following the 2010 Deepwater oil disaster and an Iraq War-themed series of photos in 2007
- The airline Easyjet apologised in 2009 after its in-flight magazine carried a photoshoot taken at the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin
- The editor of a Chinese magazine was fired in 2008 after publishing photos of scantily-clad models posing amid the wreckage of an earthquake in Sichuan in which more than 60,000 people died