Kate Moss, R.N.
September 2003 -- This month's issue of W has a feature story by Julie L. Belcove on charismatic supermodel Kate Moss, along with a portfolio of new images, including a photo by prominent artist Richard Prince showing a tough-looking Moss in a quasi-naughty nurse dress and cap, in front of a disturbing painting of a nurse from the mid-20th century who is dressed in a vaguely similar but traditional outfit, with white gauze covering her face. Moss' translucent vinyl dress is very short and somewhat revealing of her braless body, and an obvious reaction would be to chastise those involved for the use of a harmful nursing stereotype.
In fact, the photo (above) is complex and ambiguous. Moss' outfit is far less revealing than many others in the portfolio, which includes outright nudity. Her defiant hand-on-hip stance, the use of little makeup, the background painting and the technical aspects of the photo add up to an image that is not overtly erotic, much less pornographic. The article itself, at least in the version appearing on the web site the magazine shares with Vogue, notes that Prince's nurse-over-nurse picture "toys with the question of who is borrowing from whom: Are we all--artists included--just a part of one endless cultural regurgitation?"
Prince and Moss may also be thinking a little more deeply about the images they're comparing. Linking the provocatively clad but assertive Moss with the conservatively dressed but practically veiled nurse in the background painting--a nurse whose face is largely obscured--suggests concerns about the empowerment and oppression of nurses and women, about free expression and well-being, powerful celebrities and uncelebrated workers, and the relation between art and modern society. How free nurse Moss is to flaunt her brain, rather than just her body, isn't entirely clear. Is this photo about the body or the soul? Well, yeah. Like much of Madonna's work, it tries to have it all ways, with some success.
Whatever this interesting photo's deeper meanings, it still offers an image of an unusually attractive nurse revealing far more of her body than a real nurse would. Nurses may have legitimate concerns about just how their "culture" continues to be "regurgitated," in a society in which even the cognoscenti's view of this work will be informed by little understanding of nursing.
To let the creators know what you think of Richard Prince's photograph of Kate Moss, you may write to the editors of "W" at firstname.lastname@example.org and blind carbon copy us at the Center at email@example.com to let us share in your reaction. Or feel free to e-mail us at the Center to let us know what you think of this review.
Review by Harry Jacobs Summers
Nursing Editor: Sandy Summers, MSN, MPH, RN
Reviewed August 16, 2003
The views expressed herein do not necessarily reflect those of the Board Members or Advisory Panel of The Truth About Nursing.