Black Is the New Black
January 6, 2009
The July 08 issue of Italian Vogue featured only black models and became one of the best selling foreign magazine issues ever in the U.S. Photographer Steven Meisel shot the issue and was quoted as saying that he hoped that the success of the layouts would show the world of advertisers and modeling agencies that the use of racially diverse models was a wise choice.
Not withstanding the success of the issues in newsstand sales, some complained that the effort was racist in itself as all the models conformed to the Euro/American ideas of beauty and actually represented ‘white looking models with darker skin”. But then fashion models rarely look like typical women of any race.
Often models outside of the unrealistic world of fashion tend to resemble well-known actors or, even, politicians as people relate to people that they admire. This admiration is used to trigger positive feelings about a product or service in ads and promo websites. I recall several times doing a double take to check if this or that famous person was really acting as a spokesperson for a particular product. Closer inspection showed that a strong resemblance was present but the spokesperson wasn’t the famous person at all. The casting had been done to play on the resemblances as both an eye-catching strategy as well as to create confidence by association…even if the association was subliminal
The U.S. is about to inaugurate a man of African American descent who is bringing a wonderfully photogenic family with him to the White House. The past decade has seen an increasing demand for ethnic diversity in stock images of business and school groups…but now I predict that the First Family of the U.S. will cause a bump in the need for stock photos of African American families, business leaders and spokespeople (especially if they resemble Barack or Michelle) and of all-black business groups not just images with a token ethnic face.
The main challenge in photographing darker skin is lighting so that the highlights define the face/body rather than the shadows as in light skin so I’ve read. Very dark faces will lose definition without careful attention to lighting and backgrounds. Avoid stark white backgrounds as the contrast can cause you to lose the beauty of darker skin. Getting the skin tones correct can be extra challenging when a very light skinned model is paired with a model with very dark skin.
Those with experience lighting dark skin models should share them with fellow shooters in the comments below.
Blended families-parents of two different races
Extended families-groups of three or more generations
Older and elderly African American adults
Groups of black children playing at home or school
Black career men and women
All black business groups.