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Tuesday, 30 January 2018

Modelling for Cigarrette Packet Photos: "This is for Dresden"

One of the most attractive things about smoking was the branding and the packets. But even though the branding on the packets (and see here for some cigarette packet collection by country) has gone, I still have a strange fascination of the images of disease and death you get on packets now. It's a fascination that dates back to my childhood when I would skim through my mother's illustrated medical guide for pictures of the most gruesome diseases.

The current packets with their graphic visual warnings still fascinate me and I'm guessing there are morbid people who collect them. If you are remotely interested in this, here are the approved EU health warnings.

Nice. I have always wondered who the people on the cigarette packets were. The guy on the bottom left is called Tom Fraine and he talks about the whole process on modelling for graphic warnings here from the model's perspective. I love the photographer who zipped the model into a body bag and said,"This is for Dresden." Who says Germans don't have a sense of humour.

I saw an advert looking for models for tobacco warnings. It was paid, so I applied and made the shortlist. I asked what I needed to bring to wear and they sent me a one-line email saying: “This is what we need you to do,” and attached a picture of a naked guy curled up in a ball. They told me I would get €100.

The other people on the shoot were from the photographer’s agency. They were after all sorts of setups: “Woman looking sad in wheelchair”, “Man blowing smoke in a baby’s face”, “Dead man in a morgue”. I went into a weird studio and they told me to take all my clothes off. I lay down on a makeshift bed while two guys on ladders stood over me, photographing. They were directing me from up there, asking me to look more anguished, or more angry, or asking me to rearrange myself because my testicles were in shot. But they got the shot. It wasn’t until the cigarette packets came out that I discovered it would be a warning about impotence.

The next shoot was even weirder. This time, I was offered €200 and asked to come to a disused hospital on the outskirts of Berlin. They painted my face grey, put me in a body bag and took me to the morgue. Being in a body bag really freaked me out, especially when the photographer zipped the bag up fully and whispered: “This is for Dresden,” before unzipping me. He had a dark sense of humour. That’s the warning advert where I’m playing the dead guy.

And for more tobacco labelling joy, go to the Tobacco Labelling Resource Centre. There are some grim ones in there. But none quite so grim as this one from Belarus which comes via Ivars Gravlejs... 

Linking this to the previous post on photobooks, what we sometimes have to remember is there are multiple photography worlds beyond photobooks that are much bigger than the photobook world. And the world of Tobacco Health Warnings  is one of those worlds!

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