Balenciaga photographer says he’s being ‘lynched’ over bondage-themed campaign featuring children


The Italian photographer who took the shots of children holding a teddy bear dressed in a BDSM outfit that outraged hundreds of people online says he’s been the target of a ‘lynching’ and had no creative control over the project.

Gabriele Galimberti, who has been featured in National Geographic, The Sunday Times, Stern, Geo, Le Monde, La Repubblica and Marie Claire, addressed the controversy on Instagram Wednesday. 

He wrote: ‘Following the hundreds of hate mails and messages I received as a result of the photos I took for the Balenciaga campaign, I feel compelled to make this statement.

‘I am not in a position to comment Balenciaga’s choices, but I must stress that I was not entitled in whatsoever manner to neither chose the products, nor the models, nor the combination of the same.’

Galimberti – who appears to deal in controversial subjects, having won the World Press Photo 2021 in the ‘Portrait Stories’ category with his project THE AMERIGUNS – seems to argue that he was just holding the camera and in charge of the lighting. 

The Italian photographer who took the shots of children holding a teddy bear dressed in a BDSM outfit that outraged hundreds of people online says he’s been the target of a ‘lynching’ and had no creative control over the project 

Balenciaga, a globally-renowned Spanish fashion house who dress the likes of Kim Kardashian and Nicole Kidman among other, appear to be laying the blame at the photographer, Gabriele Galimberti

Balenciaga, a globally-renowned Spanish fashion house who dress the likes of Kim Kardashian and Nicole Kidman among other, appear to be laying the blame at the photographer, Gabriele Galimberti 

Fashion brand Balenciaga is apologizing for what many believe is a photoshoot that amounts to child pornography, with a child holding a teddy bear dressed in a BDSM outfit

Fashion brand Balenciaga is apologizing for what many believe is a photoshoot that amounts to child pornography, with a child holding a teddy bear dressed in a BDSM outfit 

Gabriele Galimberti, who has been featured in National Geographic, The Sunday Times, Stern, Geo, Le Monde, La Repubblica and Marie Claire, addressed the controversy on Instagram Wednesday

Gabriele Galimberti, who has been featured in National Geographic, The Sunday Times, Stern, Geo, Le Monde, La Repubblica and Marie Claire, addressed the controversy on Instagram Wednesday

'I am not in a position to comment Balenciaga¿s choices, but I must stress that I was not entitled in whatsoever manner to neither chose the products, nor the models, nor the combination of the same,' he wrote

‘I am not in a position to comment Balenciaga’s choices, but I must stress that I was not entitled in whatsoever manner to neither chose the products, nor the models, nor the combination of the same,’ he wrote

He continues: ‘As a photographer, I was only and solely requested to lit the given scene, and take the shots according to my signature style.

‘As usual for a commercial shooting, the direction of the campaign and the choice of the objects displayed are not in the hands of the photographer.’

The photographer Galimberti promoted the images as part of a project series he called ‘Toy Stories,’ in an apparent reference to the Disney/Pixar film series, according to the Daily Dot. 

He writes of the project on his website: ‘For over two years, I visited more than 50 countries and created colorful images of boys and girls in their homes and neighborhoods with their most prized possessions: their toys.’

‘From Texas to India, Malawi to China, Iceland, Morocco, and Fiji, I recorded the spontaneous and natural joy that unites kids despite their diverse backgrounds. Whether the child owns a veritable fleet of miniature cars or a single stuffed monkey, the pride that they have is moving, funny, and thought provoking.’

Ultimately, he calls the reaction, in which he has been accused on his social media pages of being a pedophile, as equivalent to ‘lynching’ and says that they ‘are addressed against wrong targets, and distract from the real problem, and criminals.’

He wrote: ‘I suspect that any person prone to pedophilia searches on the web and has unfortunately a too easy access to images completely different than mine, absolutely explicit in their awful content. Lynching like these are addressed against wrong targets, and distract from the real problem, and criminals.’ 

Galimberti said in an interview that the ‘Toy Stories’ project came by chance, after taking a photo of a friend’s daughter in Tuscany: ‘When I had the possibility to start my trip around the world I decided to take the same kind of photo in every country that I was going to visit.’

He even turned the project into a book called ‘Toy Stories,’ available as a hardcover and on Kindle. 

He also added that he had zero involvement in a shoot containing an excerpt from the 2008 US Supreme Court opinion in United States v. Williams, which upheld part of a federal child pornography law, which Twitter’s own fact-checkers confirmed. 

Galimberti writes: ‘That one was taken in another set by other people and and was falsely associated with my photos.’  

Those photos have been attributed to American photographer Chris Maggio, according to Newsweek. 

Maggio has worked on campaigns and with music artists, including directing a music video for 100 gecs. He has yet to respond to the controversy.

Galimberti writes: 'That one was taken in another set by other people and and was falsely associated with my photos.' Those photos have been attributed to American photographer Chris Maggio, according to Newsweek

Galimberti writes: ‘That one was taken in another set by other people and and was falsely associated with my photos.’ Those photos have been attributed to American photographer Chris Maggio, according to Newsweek

Maggio has worked on campaigns and with music artists, including directing a music video for 100 gecs. He has yet to respond to the controversy

Maggio has worked on campaigns and with music artists, including directing a music video for 100 gecs. He has yet to respond to the controversy

DailyMail.com has reached out to Balenciaga for comment on Galimberti’s statement. 

Balenciaga, a globally-renowned Spanish fashion house which dresses the likes of Kim Kardashian and Nicole Kidman, appeared to be laying the blame on Galimberti. 

Balenciaga released a statement Tuesday apologizing for the photoshoot and seemingly suggesting they would take legal action against Galimberti and anyone else involved. 

The statement reads: ‘We sincerely apologize for any offense our holiday campaign may have caused. Our plush bear bags should not have been featured with children in this campaign. We have immediately removed the campaign from all platforms.

‘We apologize for displaying unsettling documents in our campaign. We take this matter very seriously and are taking legal action against the parties responsible for creating the set and including unapproved items for our Spring 23 campaign photoshoot. We strongly condemn abuse of children in any form. We stand for children safety and well-being.’

The bondage-clad teddybears are actually handbags that appeared on the runway earlier this year

The bondage-clad teddybears are actually handbags that appeared on the runway earlier this year

Perhaps even more bizarrely, a Twitter user discovered an Easter egg in the shoot, with one of the photos containing an excerpt from the US Supreme Court opinion in United States v. Williams, which upheld part of a federal child pornography law, which Twitter's own fact-checkers confirmed

Perhaps even more bizarrely, a Twitter user discovered an Easter egg in the shoot, with one of the photos containing an excerpt from the US Supreme Court opinion in United States v. Williams, which upheld part of a federal child pornography law, which Twitter’s own fact-checkers confirmed

Balenciaga previously had two images of young children cuddling up with the plush handbags on their website that now appear to have been wiped.

The first photo on the online store shows a young ginger-haired child standing on a plush pink bed while holding a white teddy bag by its leather strap.

As well as having spiky leather bracelets around the bear’s arms and legs, the soft toy is dressed in a mesh crop top with a chain and padlock around its neck.

The gift shop section of the website features another image of a child standing on a sofa and holding a purple furry toy bag.

The Italian photographer Galimberti promoted the images as part of a project series he called 'Toy Stories,' in an apparent reference to the Disney/Pixar film series

The Italian photographer Galimberti promoted the images as part of a project series he called ‘Toy Stories,’ in an apparent reference to the Disney/Pixar film series

Outraged parents branded the images 'creepy and wrong' on social media

Outraged parents branded the images ‘creepy and wrong’ on social media

Along with a leather S&M get-up, the plush toy is also wearing what looks like a black lace thong. 

In the background of the image, a blue toy bag has been placed on a side table and is wrapped in more studded leather bands.

Although the bags are not available to purchase on their website yet, the images have been produced to promote the items in their gift range – including reusable coffee cups and a dog harness.

Unsurprisingly, the campaign images have caused a stir among parents on social media – who branded them ‘creepy’ and ‘uncomfortable’. 

‘Frightening how many adults must have been involved in this,’ one Twitter user mused. ‘Parents, photographers, creative directors, copywriters, design agency staff, producers, managers, advertisers… and not one of them thought, ‘hang on a minute?” 

Parents were amazed that the photoshoot got the sign-off, with some labelling the images 'uncomfortable'

Parents were amazed that the photoshoot got the sign-off, with some labelling the images ‘uncomfortable’

Mumsnet users were up in arms at the images and accused the brand of trying to 'shock' people

Mumsnet users were up in arms at the images and accused the brand of trying to ‘shock’ people

Another raged: ‘Jesus, that’s just creepy and wrong.’

Over on Mumsnet, parents took issue with the ‘highly inappropriate’ photoshoot.

One wrote: ‘B****y typical of Balenciaga. They shock to get attention for there overpriced rubbish. It’s like a social experiment on how ridiculous there products are but yet people buy the rubbish.

‘This though is disgusting and verging on depraved. What possessed the parents of this child to think this is any sort of normal I cannot fathom.’

 ‘That is a very uncomfortable image,’ another added.

Conservative commentator Candace Owens called on Kim Kardashian and sister Khloe to condemn the photoshoots.

Owens tweeted: It was so great to see @KimKardashian use her platform to condemn antisemitism. Let’s see if she’ll use that same platform to condemn the blatant child pornography documents being promoted in #Balenciaga ads, since she is one of the faces of the brand. @khloekardashian —you too!’

As recently as Monday, Kardashian was seen wearing Balenciaga as she left her LA office after a shoot. 

The reality star, 42, was seen wearing Balenciaga and Adidas, two of the designers who dropped West, 45, after his recent anti-Semitic rants.

Kim wore a top from the two designer’s collaboration, a long-sleeve black shirt with white stripes on the sleeve and the names of the brands placed in the center of the chest.

As recently as Monday, Kardashian was seen wearing Balenciaga as she left her LA office after a shoot

As recently as Monday, Kardashian was seen wearing Balenciaga as she left her LA office after a shoot 

Making a statement? Kim wore a top from the two designer's recent collaboration, a long-sleeve black shirt with white stripes on the sleeve and the names of the brands placed in the center of the chest

Not so fancy footwear! Kim flaunted her toned legs as she emerged from the car wearing black flip flops

Making a statement? Kim wore a top from the two designer’s recent collaboration, a long-sleeve black shirt with white stripes on the sleeve and the names of the brands placed in the center of the chest

Kim flaunted her toned legs as she emerged from the car wearing black flip flops. She also appeared to be wearing black sunglasses from Balenciaga.

Her hair dangled down her chest in loose, wispy waves and her natural beauty was enhanced with a slick of lip gloss touching up her look.

Kim also seemed to be taking a dig at her ex on Instagram on Monday.

She was once again wearing a Balenciaga x Adidas top along with a pair of black Balenciaga boots. ‘Hey,’ she captioned the snap.

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk