This is called “Let’s get lost.”
It’s a Mikael Janssen shoot for Interview of Daria Werbowy and many other, rather successful and beautiful models that you really would struggle to identify, because, not only do they appear to be styled, as one commentator on Live Journal’s fashin thread, called them as “blackcessories” …let’s face it, the shoot is not there to celebrate them.
Instead it references practically every offensive racist stereotype (as listed in the film, Malcolm X, years ago) : Black = dark, black = sexually rampant, black = sinister.
You can’t help but notice the contrast between the white model, delicately styled in her ethereal vulnerable fairy robes, legs splayed, eye-lids lowered, at center-stage and the black “party goers” – dark, shadowy props, there to lend menace, in their “savage” shebeen (?) dressed in leather and slashed knits.
I am sure, that could Interview Ed, Ingrid Sischy or Mikael Janssen or the shoot’s stylist, Michael Sheen, be bothered to lower themselves to answer any criticism, they would say that it is “ironic”, or that they were “playing with just those stereotypes” or, perhaps …”but it’s art.”
Or maybe they would just look at the questioner with total befuddlement.
Connie Wang, over at Refinery 29 interpreted the shoot like this: “regardless of what some say, fashion is at its core a political and social product—how power relationships are set up in editorials can speak volumes. So while the super-sexy, ethno-traditional thing is very of the moment, it all seems to be setting up a 21st century colonial construct that makes us very uncomfortable.
Commentators on The Fashion Spot wrote: “I expect more from Interview than some stereotypical, white person enters into strange and exotic world of brown people editorial” and “”I can’t believe that the editorial team got away with a story that overtly exposes and even promotes such racist stereotypes. The one time they chose to cast an amazing variety of black models they had to play with a tired concept; the only reason why they are honestly here in this story is to play up the stereotype of black people as anonymous, sexual, savage beings who here play back up dancer to Daria (the white person).”
Do these fashionistas want to disturb? To challenge? Or just to indulge their own prejudices?
The Frisky had this to say: “A picture is worth a thousand words. And the story behind this one isn’t even far-fetched or surprising. Black people have been viewed as savagely sexual beings since Europeans invaded Africa centuries ago. But on a more technical note, this Interview editorial isn’t the first time, nor the last, that color contrast was used in fashion photography.
While this editorial can be interpreted as racist, it’s doubtful the editors made a conscious effort to make black people look savage. They probably didn’t even think past making the fashions and Daria stand out.”
But tunnel vision and ignorance, plus carelessness, remain no defence.
Not in front of the law, and not against the accusation of racism, either.