You know what's weird about fashion? Too many things to mention in this space but one thing pops up over and over again and it never ceases to piss me off.
Fashion has a grotesque infatuation with racist colonial imagery. The same industry that touts itself as celebrating creativity above all other things and being accepting of all people regardless of race or sexual orientation simply cannot help but get a hard on when they dream up scenarios which put Westerners (usually lithe white models) smack dab in the middle of exotic locals surrounded by dark skinned breathing props.
I always wonder just how much of the impulse to use people as props is due to racist fears. Aren't most white people conditioned to be leery of dark faces? Grab that LV bag a little closer when one gets in the elevator with you and keep that rape whistle handy, right? But somehow, in the fashion universe, a white woman can keep her designer handbag gaping wide open, surrounded by those people without fear, just like in the good old colonial days when they knew their place.
The President of the United States may be half-Kenyan but when noted fashion photographers go to Africa to scout locations, they generally don't see the people walking around them as future political leaders. Mostly, they just pick out the most "native" looking ones as background images the same way Kmart used to have those pull down backdrops when I was a kid. We never vacationed when I was a kid but I still have photos of myself in front of the "winter" backdrop that made it look like we had a winter home in Tahoe.
Steven Lyon is the latest in a long line of fashion photographers to dip into the colonial chic well, except this time, he kicked it up a notch by leaving the garments back at the hotel, covering naked model Lara Stone in mud and snapping photos of her like she was at home visiting family.
The result is more heinous colonialist trash. All the "romance" and "adventure" is here. The model, a photographer and team of stylists arrive in a Namibia, rent a jeep and roll up on the first tribe they find. We all know that native have nothing better to do than sitting around and pose with models.
But is she really blending in? Or is she the centerpiece? Do the women around her serve any other purpose than making Ms. Stone stand out? Every expressionless prop woman in the photo is covered in the same red ocre mud but yet somehow the model is more covered, her breast more naked and sexualized, her body more desirable. She's just somehow better at being a "native."
Fashion just sucks. For every bit of progress I see in this industry, there's an even larger set back. It's exhausting just thinking about it sometimes. It's just sad to me that for a black female model, the easy route to get noticed by fashion photographer and end up in a magazine is to go to some remote part of Africa, take off her clothes and sit under a tree. They will "discover" her quicker than Ford Models can find a black girl at an open call casting session.
I'm done. Thank you Chatoyya for the heads up.
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