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Fashion Victim: Hungarian Photographer Raises Hackles With 'Migrant Chic'

  • Deana Kjuka

A photo from Norbert Baksa's Der Migrant shoot

A photo from Norbert Baksa's Der Migrant shoot

Hungarian photographer Norbert Baksa says many people appreciate his latest project -- a series of photos in which a scantily clad fashion model is depicted as a migrant -- for "what it is meant to mean."

But based on the Twitter outrage that has followed the publication of Baksa's Der Migrant -- a great number of people are missing his point.

​Some Twitter users were harsh in their criticism of what they described as "migrant chic."

One post, featuring a photo of the seminude model taking a selfie in front of a barbed-wire fence, asked: "Can #photography get any lower than this?! VERY problematic ..."​

Another described the photo series as "utterly sick.

Others questioned the thinking behind the idea ...​

... or made reference to Zoolander, an American action comedy film that features a dim-witted male model who finds himself at the center of a political crisis.

Baska, referring to the ongoing EU migrant crisis, told RFE/RL that he did not intend "to glamorize this clearly bad situation." He described his photo series featuring Hungary-based model Monika Jablonczky as an example of "art."

"This is exactly what we wanted to picture: You see a suffering woman, who is also beautiful and, despite her situation, has some high quality pieces of outfit and [a] smartphone," he wrote in an e-mail.

His series -- showing Jabloncsky straining to escape the grasp of a baton-wielding security officer, taking a few minutes from her ordeal to enjoy a sandwich, and other poses in various states of dress in front of a barbed-wire fence -- clashed with many peoples' images of the migrant crisis.

It was only a few weeks ago, after all, that photographs of migrants attempting to cross the Hungarian border only to be confronted and detained by Hungarian police had the world's attention.

Baska explains in comments that were later posted to his website under the contentious photo series that he usually refuses to deal with political topics, "but this situation affects the daily lives of virtually everybody in Hungary."

Dishing out some criticism of his own, he says that "it is very difficult to understand from the news coverage whether these people are indeed refugees or something else." (He does not explain what "something else" might be.)

Addressing his Twitter critics who suggested that his photos and theme were in bad taste, he insists that "we did our best to respect people’s faith and conviction and not to cross certain boundaries," he wrote.

And regardless of the negative attention his pictures garnered on social media, Baksa notes that he has already "received many requests for publishing from various countries."