The shoot features actors Cléo Pires and Paulo Vilhena, both of whom are able-bodied ambassadors for the Brazilian Paralympic Committee (CPB). The problem, however, is that their bodies were photoshopped to look like Brazilian athletes Renato Leite and Bruninha Alexandre — altered limbs and all. Pires had her right arm digitally amputated to look like Paralympic table tennis player Alexandre's, while Vilhena appeared to have a prosthetic leg like Leite, a Brazilian sitting volleyball player.
The editorial is part of a publicity campaign for the Rio 2016 Paralympics, which Vogue Brazil shared on Instagram with the hashtag "We are all Paralympians" in Portuguese.
#SomosTodosParalímpicos: para atrair visibilidade aos Jogos Paralímpicos e ressaltar a relevância dos paratletas brasileiros no panorama do esporte nacional, @cleopires_oficial e Paulo Vilhena (@vilhenap) aceitaram o convite para serem embaixadores do Comitê Paralímpico Brasileiro e estrelam a campanha Somos Todos Paralímpicos. Concebido pelos atores com o apoio do @ocpboficial e dos atletas, com direção criativa de @ccarneiro, fotografia de @andrepassos e beleza de @carolalmeidaprada, o anúncio traz Cleo na pele de @bruninha_alexandre, paratleta do tênis de mesa, e Paulo, de @renatoleite10, da categoria vôlei sentado. Os ingressos estão à venda em ingressos.rio2016.com. Vogue mostra os bastidores do shooting com o quarteto no link da bio. #voguenasparalimpiadas
"There’s no shortage of disabled people to take the place of spokesperson in these adverts and show society that, yes, they exist and they deserve as much space in the media as us," wrote Natália Belizario of feminist website Lado M, according to The Telegraph. "No, we are not all Paralympians. We still do not understand the reality of people with disabilities." Richard Lane, who works for the U.K.-based charity Scope (to bring equal opportunity for people with disabilities), echoed Belizario's concerns: It's "hard to understand why Vogue Brazil felt the need to use models who aren’t disabled in a Paralympic photo shoot," he told Huffington Post UK, noting that it was a missed opportunity to "celebrate Brazil’s talented Paralympians as sporting equals."
Many are using social media to expose the problematic nature of the imagery, suggesting more appropriate models who could have easily starred in Pires and Vilhena's places.
According to Clayton Carneiro, Vogue Brazil's art director, the concept for the shoot was Pires' idea and had the Paralympians' blessing. "We knew it would be a punch in the gut, but we were there for a good cause," Carneiro told The Telegraph. "After all, almost no one bought tickets to see the Paralympic games." Pires took to Instagram to defend the campaign, saying in a video: "We lent our image to generate visibility. And that’s what we’re doing. My God." Unfortunately, like the visuals themselves, the response seems to miss the mark.