A Twitter storm about a Fashion Photoshoot of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and First Lady Olena Zelenska has highlighted the power and pitfalls of wartime imagery following Russia’s February 24 invasion of Ukraine.
That digital cover with Zelenska and other portraits of her against dramatic backdrops and with her husband were photographed by celebrated photographer Annie Leibovitz, who traveled to Kyiv for the project. In the accompanying interview Writer Rachel Donadio outlines Zelenska’s evolution into a diplomat representing Ukraine while repelling Russia’s onslaught. Donadio describes how Zelenska used shocking photos to convey the tragedy of the war when she asked the US Congress for more military support.
“She showed images of Ukrainian children killed by Russian missiles, including a four-year-old child with Down syndrome, before amplifying it,” Donadio writes. “‘I’m asking for something I never want to ask: I’m asking for guns – guns that would not be used to fight a war on someone else’s land, but for your own home and the right to wake up alive in it protect homeland.'”
In a Facebook post, art historian Diana Klochko compared Leibovitz’s cover photo of Zelenska, who sits on a staircase with sandbags behind her and stares defiantly, to portraits by artist Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec.
Another controversial image shows Zelenska flanked by female soldiers in front of a wreckage of a military plane at Hostomel’s Antonov airport, the scene of a crucial battle in which Ukrainian troops drove back Russian forces from Kyiv. Some criticized her for looking too glamorous, but Jaanika Merilo, an adviser to Ukraine’s digital transformation minister, tweeted that she was favorite picture from the shoot.
Commentators who came into conflict with the Zelenskys’ consumption Fashion as a platform for Ukraine’s cause, include Lauren Boebert, a Republican congresswoman from Colorado who has been vocal in support of gun rights, a supporter of Donald Trump (she berated President Joe Biden during his 2022 State of the Union address), and a Opponent of military aid to Ukraine. “While we are sending $60 billion in aid to Ukraine, Zelensky is doing photoshoots Vogue Magazine,” she tweeted on July 27th. “These people think we’re nothing but a bunch of jerks.”
The idea of funneling money to Zelensky, who has been accused by opponents of corruption, prompted one of many memes to emerge from the shoot, of him and Zelenska sitting at a table covered in cash.
Political scientist Ian Bremmer, founder of the consulting firm Eurasia Group, took in the Zelenskys to the task for a PR misstep. “Zelensky did an extraordinary job in beating the Russians in information warfare,” he tweeted. “Fashion Wartime photoshoot: bad idea.” While others praised her for her acumen in furthering the cause of Ukraine.
Kareem Rifai, a Detroit-based Syrian Circassian pro-democracy activist, questioned the sanity of those condemning it Fashion Spread as opposed to the blasé reaction Such was the case with the Russian atrocities in Ukraine Bucha massacre near Kyiv in March: “If you reacted more strongly to the Selensky photoshoot than to the pictures of people being tied up and executed in Bucha, please sincerely consider therapy.” Rifai also contrasted it with that Lack of condemnation for a recent photo shoot of the Syrian dictator Bashar al Assad and his family. in 2012, Fashion drew a flattering profile by Assad’s wife Asma, who was running when the state cracked down on protests.
Images from World War II became the subject of Twitter debates, with some posting similar promotional footage Winston and Clementine Churchill and others answer with wrong pictures by Hitler and Eva Braun on the cover of Fashion. Zelenskyi, who is Jewish, is accused by the Kremlin of leading a Nazi regime.
Fashion was also criticized for racial discrimination in profiling the Zelenskys and not Indigenous and Black victims of oppression.
At the same time, many Ukrainians are angry with both the Western right and them left Intellectuals and politicians for Denial of Ukrainian capacity to act and tell them what to think and feel. “People judge [Zelenska’s] Fashion Photos as ‘frivolous’ would probably be outraged that Ukrainians still go out, dress up, buy gifts for children, celebrate birthdays. if [Ukrainian] Defenders at the front say life should go on, why do some foreigners feel justified in denying us this right?” the journalist tweeted Olga Tokaryuk.