Balenciaga recently created an uproar with its holiday campaign featuring children holding teddy bears dressed in what seems like bondage gear. Many on social media also noticed that one still shot of the brand’s bag on a desk featured a document from the US court case Ashcroft vs Free Speech Coalition – a judgment in favour of virtual child pornography.
Following the widespread criticism of the controversial advertisement, the luxury fashion house issued an apology and removed the campaign from all platforms. “We sincerely apologise for any offense our holiday campaign may have caused. Our plush bear bags should not have been featured with children in this campaign. We have immediately removed the campaign from all platforms,” it noted.
Following Balenciaga’s statement, National Geographic’s Gabriele Galimberti, the photographer of the campaign, took to Instagram to address the criticism and distance himself from it. “Following the hundreds of hate mails and messages I received as a result of the photos I took for the Balenciaga campaign, I feel compelled to make this statement,” he started out saying.
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According to Galimberti, he “was not entitled in whatsoever manner to neither chose the products, nor the models, nor the combination of the same”. He stressed that as a photographer, he “was only and solely requested to lit the given scene” and take the shots according to his “signature style”.
“As usual for a commercial shooting, the direction of the campaign and the choice of the objects displayed are not in the hands of the photographer,” he said.
The photographer added that he suspects that any person prone to paedophilia searches on the web has easy access to images different from his. “Lynching like these are addressed against wrong targets, and distract from the real problem, and criminals,” he said.
Talking about the document visible in one of the campaign photographs, he said, “Also, I have no connection with the photo where a Supreme Court document appears. That one was taken in another set by other people and was falsely associated with my photos.”
Balenciaga also addressed the display of “unsettling documents” in the campaign. “We take this matter very seriously and are taking legal action against the parties responsible for creating the set and including unapproved items. We strongly condemn abuse of children in any form. We stand for children safety and well-being,” it said.
After public outcry, #Balenciaga has APOLOGIZED for the incredibly disgusting ads sexualizing children.
Keep 👏 speaking 👏 out 👏 when you see evil like this. Don’t ignore it. Be vigilant. Your voice makes a a huge difference. pic.twitter.com/X9sCn7xkdN
— Lila Rose (@LilaGraceRose) November 22, 2022
Many had taken to social media to not just call out the brand for the insensitive campaign but also the photographer for associating himself with it. “Hey, Photographers: When Balenciaga hires you to shoot their new lookbook & you show up to find a toddler laid across a sofa with wine glasses & bondage gear arranged around them, you walk away. Period. I love a lot of your work & understand the industry pressure on shooters but some principal would have told you not to involve your name in this nonsense,” a user wrote on Twitter.
Hey Photographers :
When Balenciaga hires you to shoot their new lookbook & you show up to find a toddler laid across a sofa with wine glasses & bondage gear arranged around them, you walk away. Period. pic.twitter.com/DSoHgQLM6O
— Hoop (@xhoop) November 21, 2022