Olivier Zahm (image from NYTimes.com)

Reports hold that Purple Magazine editor Olivier Zahm, widely known for being a skeezy dude who documents his love sex life obsessively online on Purple’s Diary, is just super into the ladies. Says Rachel Chandler, a Purple contributor, “A lot of people think he’s a sexist pig … What they don’t get is that he really loves women. Like, more than any man I’ve ever met.” A New York Times profile has the details.

There you have it. The man who once posted photos of himself “clutching the locks of a faceless, naked brunette” with the caption: “Trying to forget the pain,” after breaking up with ex-girlfriend Natacha Ramsay isn’t really a creep, he LOVES women! So much so that he feels compelled to publish naked/semi-naked American Apparel post coital-style photos of them on his “Downtown society chronicling” blog. Does this sound familiar? It should, because Olivier’s antics are reminiscent of his pal Terry Richardson‘s reputation for sexually harassing his models and also being an A+ creep photographer. There are a bunch of pictures of Zahm and “Uncle Terry” mugging it up together both on the Purple Diary and Richardson’s own blog, in case the connection was unclear.

Purple is a self-styled (and NYT-endorsed) “chronicle of the avant-garde” that has lately turned away from visual art and poetry and more toward informal fashion shoots of clothes-less celebrities on motorcycles. The mag has a lot more traction in the fashion scene than in the art world, though it does commission projects from some significant contemporary artists. The telephone-book sized publication is a kind of who’s who of a select fashion scene that’s all about the image, and image is what Zahm’s got. He’s a free-love playboy who in some previous life was a kind of art critic, so the whole thing with women, it’s just aesthetics, right? Says fellow risque magazine editor and stylist Andrew Richardson of Zahm:

It makes perfect sense that he became obsessed with women … It’s part of becoming a man, isn’t it?

Here’s where we get even more into the whole sexual objectification that runs rampant in the glossy elite fashion world. In the universe of Purple, sure, women are appropriate objects for obsession and methods to heal pain. But is there any representation of agency or personal creative vitality? Not really.

Terry Richardson and Olivier Zahm (image from purple-diary.com)

With Purple Magazine, Olivier’s life has become fashion, an ever-changing record of what Zahm is doing, who Zahm is sleeping with, what Zahm sees and how Zahm sees it. It’s entirely a mistake for the New York Times to claim that this magazine represents any kind of avant-garde besides the bleeding edge between high fashion and exploitation, the same territory stalked by Terry Richardson. It’s just that with Zahm, the backlash hasn’t hit yet. Or maybe he’s just not mainstream enough that anyone outside of his circle cares? Let’s let him speak in his own words:

Unlike the rest of the fashion world, he said, “me, I don’t do it safe.” And then, offering up another trademark phrase: “I always push the limits.” He scooped up a sparkly gold helmet from the floor, darted outside in black leather boots, mounted a black-and-gold Triumph motorcycle (he buys a new one annually, he said) and vroomed away.

It’s hard to tell where the irony stops and where the self-delusion begins, both for Zahm and New York Times writer Spencer Morgan.

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Kyle Chayka

Kyle Chayka was senior editor at Hyperallergic. He is a cultural critic based in Brooklyn and has contributed to publications including ARTINFO, ARTnews, Modern Painters, LA Weekly,...