Review of Agent Provocateur Fall 2020 Ad Campaign by Photographer Charlotte Wales
Always true to their name, Agent Provocateur returns with a provocative new campaign for Fall 2020. Lensed by British photographer Charlotte Wales, the campaign exists comfortably in a gray area between liberation and objectification, subverting sexist tropes to send a powerfully feminist message.
The campaign stars five women from different worlds and disciplines: chef and food writer Gizzi Erskine, rapper IAMDDB, motorcycle influencer Dominika Grnova, gamer Jasmine Asia, and actor and director Breanna Box.
Wales captures these women against a backdrop that feels like an idealized version of early-80’s suburbia. They lounge in lingerie among tacky interiors or on manicured front lawns, often posing with the tools of their trade: video game controllers, freshly cooked meals, a motorcycle. There is an implication of trophy wifehood, as if each of these women’s job is just to lie around and be sexy. We suspect that at any moment the pizza guy could show up à la corny retro porn.
The images confront us with the absurdity of their hypersexualization.
We feel somewhat icky looking at them; they force us into the perspective of the male gaze. We are made to recognize that these antiquated, gonzo sexist tropes – the woman giving her motorcycle a sponge bath in a neon bodysuit, or flung dramatically across the dining room table next to a platter of oysters – were at one time a cultural norm for how women could be presented.
The campaign ends up being a strong feminist statement. By playing up the ridiculousness of objectification, of reducing women’s identities to their bodies, it actually champions the feminist cause of women having power over their own bodies and lives. In this connection it feels important that Agent Provocateur cast unique women who are not just models, who each have interesting lives and successful careers.
Yes, the campaign does rely in part on selling an image of sexiness, but it is one that is free and self determined – a far cry from the rote objectification it parodies so effectively.
Photographer | Charlotte Wales Talent | Breanna Box, Dominika Grnova, Gizzi Erskine, IAMDDB, & Jasmine Asia
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