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On May 1997, President Bill Clinton spoke out about what he saw as the recent proliferation of drug-related fashion imagery, which he felt was glamorising addiction. He was prompted, in part, by the death of Davide Sorrenti, a young fashion photographer, who died of a drugs overdose. The ensuing furore about so-called 'Heroin Chic' produced an international media focus on how far the gritty realist style of photographers such as Corinne Day, Juergen Teller and Terry Richardson represented actual drug addiction within the fashion industry. This article questions many of the assumptions made about these photographers' work and seeks to analyse 1990s fashion photography in relation to, for example, contemporary youth culture. It also discusses the significance and use of imagery that spoke of drugs and/or addiction in late twentieth century fashion. These are connected to precursors, from Degas' 1876 painting, 'The Absinthe Drinker', to more recent fashion examples, such as Guy Bourdin's photographs of the 1970s, and the launch of Yves Saint Laurent's Opium perfume.
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