Should we mourn the passing of Garry Gross? For those who think the name vaguely rings a bell, he was the exploitive creator of the original image of a ten-year-old Brooke Shields who posed in the buff dressed as a turn of the century,bordello Lolita.
This image was taken in a shoot arranged by her mother, of all people. It passed without a blink of an eye in the 1970’s when Playboy published it in a book titled, “Sugar and Spice” but became a cause de celebre when Shields sued the photographer after becoming famous. Gross who exited the States for Italy until 2006, won the case on appeal.
New York Artist Richard Prince added to the infamy of the image by creating a work from an original print of the tableaux, titled “Spiritual America”. It was removed from display in the “Pop Life” Exhibition at Tate Modern in 2009, after a visit to the gallery by officers from the obscene publications unit of the Metropolitan police. This is an uncomfortable image portrayed in a vintage style, which shows a child made up to look like an adult far beyond her years, at the same time the subject is almost sexually ambiguous neither female nor male. Prince’s installation makes a statement about the controversy surrounding the original photograph. A message, which totally escaped the intellect of the officers involved in the artworks removal.
Will we mourn Garry Gross’s passing? I think not. He continued to work as a fashion pap until retiring back to America, recreating himself as a dog trainer and animal photographer.
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