Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Naomi Stars in Photographer's Political Short Film

Naomi Campbell, the hardest working black woman in the fashion industry, is currently starring in an 'untitled' short film about fashion and racism by photographer Nick Knight. Knight's first political fashion film tackled the issues of feminism and body size. In the film Knight explores why racism persists in the fashion industry that historically has thrived on innovation and inclusion. 

You can watch the film here.

There really isn't much to it. It lasts a little over two minutes. In it, Ms. Campbell wears two dresses (one black, one white get it?)  by Rodarte and shoes by Christian Louboutin. She stands in front of a solid background holding two semi-automatic weapons pointed at the camera. The camera shifts from focusing on her to showing text written by Knight on his experiences.

Text explains that although Knight has worked for a variety of clients in the industry, he is rarely allowed to photograph black models. The reasons for this are rarely given but he says he has been told that black models are "not right for the brand" or "aspirational" enough for some markets. He goes on to say that he feels guilty for accepting this racism and further allowing it to be normalized in the industry. He goes on to say that "by denying people the right to be seen as beautiful, you cause deep cultural resentment," and that "profit can not be a justification for bigotry and racism."

Naomi starts firing the guns. Her expression vacillating between dourness and joy. At one point she's seen sitting on a tank, straddling the long black tank gun. Then the film ends.

Do I get the imagery? Not really. I don't get why she has to be holding a machine gun. Hasn't that been done before? Is Wright trying to frighten viewers but outfitting the often temperamental model with a weapon able to cause more damage than a cell phone? Whatever the meaning behind it, I was encouraged a bit to see someone in the industry acknowledge their own part in perpetuating this problem.

I'd like to hear what you think of it.

Source:NYMag, Showstudio, Ferry Coal


ninety9 said...

I don't get the imagery either. Is it supposed to be like a Black Panther-type approach to the problem? Doesn't this inadvertently reinforce the stereotype of the angry black woman and/or violent black person? I'm all for taking things into your own hands but I'm also about working together (black, white, purple, blue, etc.) to get over such problems. But applause to Mr. Knight for bringing (more) attention to this issue.

I like how if you look at Naomi's hands long enough, they seem to move. Like she's getting a better aim or something.

Shaymer said...

Kudos to Nick for spotlighting this issue with such a smart and innovative piece. It’s sure to garner lots of attention. I enjoyed the bold statements in between each image. Nevertheless, I was really concerned for Naomi’s mental health. She seemed to enjoy herself a little too much with that gun. Anger management much? Be afraid, be very afraid people! I have the strangest urge to listen to Janie's Got a Gun by Aerosmith

st said...

Michael Gross wrote a book called "Model" several years ago. He wrote about Naomi wanting to be the only black model in runway shows. Forget about the film. Why not ask Naomi about that? This is why I groan whenever I hear her talk about racism in fashion or when I see her huge spread in Vogue Italia. She certainly wasn't helping back in the day. It's really all about her, and it's always been that way.

Anonymous said...

Having only seen the slideshow, I imagine that the short is nowhere near as powerful as the statement:

"By denying people the right to be seen as beautiful, you cause deep cultural resentment."

That's the trauma of being disenfranchised by this industry. But it's way more than resentment. It's internalized inferiority. It's no small thing to subconsciously believe you're not attractive, sexy, edgy or sophisticated because your skin color won't allow it. All of those attributes are human, but once again our humanity is kicked to the curb.

Camille Acey said...

I guess it's a...start. I have no problem with the imagery he's chosen. Hell yeah some of us are mad. I just feel that his rhetoric smacks of all the regurgitations of white guilt that I saw when I did antiracism trainings with white hippy college kids. I'm interested in black girls getting put on. I don't care about the feelings of the poor white people who choose not to put them on, or sit idly by while it happens. Boooring.