Vogue Portugal has dropped one of the front covers of its July / August issue, after it was widely slammed online.
Writing on Twitter on Monday, the magazine announced that they were pulling the cover depicting a naked woman sitting in a psychiatric hospital bathtub while two caregivers stand by, one of them pouring water over her head. The post said, “On such an important issue such as mental health we cannot be divided.”
“Vogue Portugal deeply apologises for any offence or upset caused by this photo shoot,” the post said. “On reflection, we realise that the subject of mental health needs a more thoughtful approach. We sincerely apologise for this.” They are also pulling the associated cover story on mental health.
The announcement came after the cover, one of four for “The Madness Issue,” prompted widespread criticism, including claims that it had triggered mental health issues for some of those who saw it, and perpetuated an inaccurate and negative stereotype of psychiatric care.
Lisbon-based psychotherapist Silvia Baptista wrote on Instagram that the cover was “everything the conversation about mental health does not need. It is not through glamourizing mental health the message gets across. It’s not with fashionable filters or studied poses that it catches the attention to whatever is needed,” she said.
Initially Vogue Portugal defended the cover, saying in a social media post on Saturday: “We acknowledge the significance of the topic of mental health and our intention, through visual storytelling, is to shine a light on the important issues of today.”
Adding: “Mental health forms just one of the topics explored within the issue and is not linked to the theme of madness but instead covered as an aspect of human emotions and behaviour.”
This came despite immediate backlash after the cover had been posted online, including comments on social media calling it “distasteful,” “appalling,” “provocative” and “disturbing,” while some accused it of capitalizing on mental health stigma.
“I spent time in a psychiatric ward. I was absolutely terrified on the way there, in part because I had only seen inaccurate and stigmatizing images of wards like this one. I wouldn’t wish that feeling on anyone. Please think before using photos like this for ‘fashion,’” one Twitter user wrote.
Another said: “Adopting a provocative image of a woman appearing so vulnerable in the hands of nurses is harmful. Please listen to the people that have been through psychiatric care and remove it / take it out of circulation. You do have social responsibility.”
The model who appeared on the cover, Simona Kirchnerova, shared an Instagram post of the image on July 3, calling it a “career highlight” to feature on the cover of Vogue, and with her mother and grandmother, who posed as the caregivers.
Following criticism, Kirchnerova posted again over the weekend to defend the cover, and Vogue. “Two days ago I appeared on the cover of @vogueportugal. Since then I’m getting so much criticism, that I feel I can’t take it anymore.
“Please realize that the model is not in charge of any photo shoot. After all this criticism I still feel that art has to be shocking and truthful. I didn’t want to offend anyone, I’m sorry that people got offended but please understand that the intention of this cover was to open the topic of mental health,” she wrote.
“I suffered from hard depression and I took lot of therapy to get better. As a person who also had mental issues, I stand by that cover and by @vogueportugal,” she added.
Kirchnerova has not yet publicly responded to news that the cover has been pulled.
Top image: One of the covers from Vogue Portugal’s “Madness” issue