Profumo scandal lives on

Gina Liano - picture Cameron Grayson

It's always interesting when an art historical theme shows up in today's pop culture. They're in advertising, newspapers, TV and all kinds of things. Today it's the photo of Gina Liano, pictures above, who I must admit before today I had never heard of. Apparently she's featured on the 'Real Housewives of Melbourne,' the title of which I'm going to guess right away is some kind of grand lie for a start, and also a barrister working in the Family Law Court.

Anyone who has looked at the odd picture in recent history will recognise right away the reference to the by-now iconic shot of Christine Keeler by Lewis Morley in 1963, shown below. Apart from the hole in the back of the chair, the chair in Liano's photoshoot appears to be exactly the same shape - well done for tracking down a modern art deco bit of furniture.

Christine Keeler, by Lewis Morley, 1963

In fact, the shot uses seems to more imitate another image from that Keeler series:

Christine Keeler, Lewis Morley, 1963, again.

So what's really going on here? The shot of Liano is an enticing picture, but what's the comparison? Keeler became famous as "the woman" in the Profumo Affair in Britain, where she was intimate - although exact accounts of the type of relationship varied - with a member of the Cabinet and a Russian diplomat in a short space of time. The Cabinet minister, Profumo, resigned and there was scandal aplenty for the government of the day.

Although we might think the image of Keeler is familiar enough to warrant reference in it's own right, Keeler herself is recalled as "showgirl," "party girl," "escort" or "prostitute,"" depending on what account you might read. Regardless of what you think is the right description and what your opinion is of those roles, what meanings do these associations have for someone in Liano's roles as barrister and TV personality?

I have no idea whether Liano is aware of the reference made in her photographs - the interview that goes with them doesn't mention it, although it's possible she knows of it, and is happy to use the titillating references work for her public profile. The association in the public arena seems little ambivalent, however, given the nature of the TV show Liano appears in, and also the avowedly 'boys club' nature of her profession, which she reflects upon quite deliberately.

She makes it quite clear however she's happy to be photographed naked, and does not seem to have any reservations, in fact says that were she 30 years old rather than 50, she probably would not have done the shoot. So maybe she's using her age to assert her worthiness and sexuality in that context.

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