I have continued researching the issue of the lack of racial diversity among models. I have spent some time looking at the situation here in New Zealand although this may not be where I focus my final work. I spoke to my friend and a model of seven years, Imogen Gentles to see her insider view of a lack of racial diversity in New Zealand. Imogen told me that most agencies will have a ‘golden black girl’ on their books to ‘divert form racist accusations’. This is supported by my research from Fashioning Models: Image, Text and Industry where agent George Speros of New York Models is quoted as saying ‘You often hear, ‘we already have a black girl in this issue’ before the casting is done’ (Entwingle and Wissinger 186). On her experience modelling in Tokyo Imogen said: ‘There is not a single black model here with any agency ever because they just wouldn’t get any work’.
I decided to look through the main and development boards at some of New Zealand’s most prominent agencies including Red 11, Clyne, 62 Models and Unique Models and found that even here in New Zealand there is an incredible lack of diversity among our models. This is something I have witnessed myself but maybe never paid as much attention to as I should have at New Zealand Fashion Week and other fashion shows. Further research has allowed me to examine the reasons for this lack of demand for models of colour. A study by Elizabeth Wissinger concluded that the two main reasons for limited opportunities were “ingrained attitudes stemming from the semiotic significance of black skin, coupled with the subjective structure of hiring in the modeling industry”. The article also talked about the laws around employing someone based on their appearance. According to Title VII of the US Civil Rights Act of 1964 this is acceptable (Wissinger 140). However, when it comes to race the lines are blurred (Wissinger 140). Casting directors often pull the ‘aesthetic’ or ‘colour scheme’ card to obscure the division between discrimination based on race or ‘lookism’ (Wissinger 139).
An idea I had for a work of visual activism was sparked by the infamous Margiela masks made famous by Kanye West. I found these interesting as they sort of erase the identity of the model. Although they only cover the models face and often their hair and skin colour are still exposed I thought this idea could be played with as a comment on designer’s desire for all models to fit a specific ‘aesthetic’. A theoretical idea for visual activism on this topic although not possible with the limitations of time and budget would be to construct a full piece sort of body suit in a similar method to these masks in which every model on a runway would wear underneath the garments as a comment on the lack of diversity of models. It would almost satirize designers wants for a cardboard cut out line up of models who all look exactly the same.
Maison Martin Margiela Haute Couture F/W’12 show
Maison Martin Margiela Haute Couture F/W’12 show
Maison Martin Margiela. Unknown.
Wissinger, E. “Managing the Semiotics of Skin Tone: Race and Aesthetic Labor in the Fashion Modeling Industry.” Economic and Industrial Democracy 33.1 (2012): 125-43. Web.
Entwistle, Joanne, and Elizabeth Wissinger. Fashioning Models: Image, Text, and Industry. London: Berg, 2012. Print.
For this assessment my first instinct was to look at the topic of feminism, an area I am well educated in and passionate about. However, after some consideration I decided it would be more valuable for me to explore a topic I am less aware of. In doing so I believe I will be able to approach the topic with fresh eyes. Scrolling through Facebook and Instagram these past few days, my news feed has been filled with images of friends, models and fashion industry figures at Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Australia. However, coverage of the ‘Misha’ show gained significant attention for straight shameful reasons. This show, taking place in 2016 consisted of an all white cast of models. However, the lack of diversity in their casting (unfortunately a very common occurrence) was not the sole reason for garnering such attention. The models were sent down the runway for the finale walking to ‘Formation’, an incredibly political song recently released by Beyonce to promote black pride and empowerment (The Guardian).
Himbrechts, Dan /AAP. The American model Bella Hadid, centre, on the runway during the Misha Collection show at Fashion Week Australia in Sydney. The Guardian.
The lack of diversity in the casting of fashion models is a hot topic. The unfortunate combination of shocking casting and terrible cultural appropriation at the Misha show only served to draw attention back to this important issue. Having spent my early teenage years as a fashion blogger I have attended several fashion weeks on a media pass. This early experience of the fashion industry (forever an area of love and interest although not my major) exposed me to the processes of casting a fashion show. Working closely with local modelling agencies, models and designers and even scouting models myself I have experience of the way models and designers work together. As this is an area of interest and a current topic I have decided I will investigate the issue of the lack of diversity amongst fashion models for assessment three. My preliminary findings have shown very sad statistics about the state of diversity in the fashion industry today. According to Business of Fashion ‘At the Autumn/Winter 2015 shows staged across the world’s four major fashion capitals, 80 percent of the models that walked the runway were white’ (Business of Fashion). The statistics for 2016 were marginally better with 77.6 percent of models being white (The Fashion Spot). I believe that this is a very pressing issue especially from an art/design context. As a designer I may one day be in the position of casting people for campaigns or shows. I am also able to understand and analyse the messages and ideologies present in the visual texts produced by this extremely influential and visual industry and the impacts these may have on society.
Tan, Monica. “Runway Misfire: Pairing Beyoncé’s Formation with White Models Misses the Song’s Point.” The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, 18 May 2016. Web. 07 June 2016.
“Between the Catwalk and the Consumer: Fashion’s Growing Diversity Gap.”The Business of Fashion. N.p., 11 Oct. 2015. Web. 07 June 2016.
Denardo, Maria. “Fashion Week Spring 2016: Diversity Report.”The Fashion Spot. N.p., 16 Oct. 2015. Web. 07 June 2016.
Planning and Preparation
- Doing background research into the type of essay
- Thinking about different approaches to planning, eg. patchwork writer, grand plan writer etc and the pros and cons of these different methods.
- Analysing the question and the wording of the question
- Identifying key ideas in a text
- Summarising a text
- Rereading to unpack the purpose of each paragraph, identifying ideas within each paragraph and analysing the writer’s style.
Content and Visual Text Analysis Tools
- Making connections between new ideas and past knowledge
- Critical analysis of images
- Understanding the ‘mystification’ of art thanks to John Berger
- Understanding how ideologies and our world view influence the way each individual sees a text and therefore each persons analysis of a text will be slightly different to the next.
- Understanding the myth of photographic truth on it’s own and in relation to ideologies and our world view.
Research and Information Gathering Tools and Protocols
- Researching artists and relevant ideas
- Using mind maps to explore ideas and connections or themes between different ideas and images. This worked very well being an (obviously) very visual person.
- Library research and using key words to find books I wouldn’t have discovered on my own.
- Skim reading to find the relevant information in an academic book with lots of unrelated information.
- Understanding different perspectives and how showing the light and shade of an argument can enrich the discussion.
The nature of identity and ‘the self’ is a highly contested topic. Our identity, has long been thought of as something inherently tangible and definite, something that can be discovered or lost. More recently artists, philosophers, sociologists and neuroscientists have begun to understand identity as more of a collection of experience. Artists such as Cindy Sherman, Pawel Althamer and Roni Horn discuss the idea of the fluid nature of identity through their work. They explore the ways that ideologies and the sociological concept of ‘the Other’ influence what we know as our identity. Essentially all of these artists explore the concept that our identity is not a tangible, innate thing but a fluid, collective response to our experiences and surroundings.
Identity is a highly contested topic sparking debates of nature vs nurture or whether or not the identity is one ‘thing’ or a collection of parts. (Click on mindmap for a larger version).
Baggini, Julian. Is There a Real You? TEDxYouthManchester. 2011.
de Beauvoir, Simone. The Second Sex. Jonathan Cape, 1953.
Herbert Mead, George. Mind, Self & Sociology. Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, 2015.
Huseman, Beth. Roni Horn aka Roni Horn. New York: Whitney Museum of American Art, 2009. Print.
Onorato, Rina S. & Turner, John C. “Fluidity in the self-concept: the shift from personal to social identity.” European Journal of Social Psychology 34.1 (2004):257-278. Online.
Zevallos, Z. (2011) ‘What is Otherness?,’ The Other Sociologist, 14 Oct,https://othersociologist.com/otherness-resources/
A person’s world view is largely based on their own personal experience and knowledge. Their world view can be influenced by their upbringing, education, religion and culture. While ideologies are prevalent and promoted through all of these areas, it is the unique combination of these experiences which make up one’s world view. Ideologies can influence both the creation and interpretation of visual texts. Visual texts are a way of normalising the power imbalances and inequalities prevalent in today’s society. The ideologies a person is most familiar with, be they Western, indigenous or other will influence the way they view visual texts including photographs (The Indigenous world view vs. Western world view). In this way, the myth of photographic truth relates to ideologies and world view as it controls or influences the way the viewer perceives a visual text. When constructing a photograph a person’s world view and ideologies will influence the image. When critically evaluating a visual text it is important to consider it’s intended and unintended audience. The text may have been contrived or designed for a particular audience through conforming to certain ideologies.
The Indigenous world view vs. Western world view. WC Native News. 2014.
The myth of photographic truth refers to the established belief that photographs are inherently true, reliable representations of a moment in a particular time and place. The mechanical nature of photography, whether through film or digital is deceptive and alludes to the myth of photographic truth. From it’s creation in the mid 18th century, photography has been providing subjective, inaccurate, misrepresentative ‘truths’. As Mark Osterman says, photography is inherently untrue (The Myth of Photographic Truth). Digital technologies such as photoshop have only built on a preexisting practice of photographic manipulation. For this reason, an analysis of visual texts is not complete without examining the way the image was constructed and how this could influence it’s interpretations. When analysing a photograph we can look at it’s denotative and connotative qualities. A photograph can denote or describe a moment in time. However it can simultaneously evoke an emotional response (Sturken & Cartwright 20). This will differ for each individual viewer based on their worldview. When looking at the work of American artist Cindy Sherman, we can see that her photographs have both denotative and connotative qualities. In Untitled Film Still we can see a low angle photograph of a young woman wearing a hat against a city background. However, with a knowledge of American film history and gender studies we know that this photograph is more than just a photograph of a young woman. It is a commentary on the position of women in society and the way women are represented in the media (Mirzoeff 55).
Sherman, Cindy. Untitled Film Still. Photograph. The Museum of Modern Art. New York.
Mirzoeff, Nicholas. How to See the World. London: Pelican, 2015. Print.
The Myth of Photographic Truth. Mark Osterman. International Museum of Photography and Film. 2012.
Sturken, Marita., & Cartwright, Lisa. Practices of Looking. New York: Oxford University Press. 2009.
This photograph titled ‘Self-Portrait as a Business Man’ by Powell Althamer comments on Western ideologies. This text relates to the ideology of consumerism which enforces the importance of acquiring material possessions. This ideology dictates that your identity is largely based on your superficial appearance and belongings. By naming this piece a self portrait, Althamer is saying that his material possessions make up who he is or who he is perceived to be.
Althamer, Powell. Self-Portrait as a Business Man. Jacket, trousers, dress shirt, silk tie, shoes, socks, underpants, passport, plastic cover, leather briefcase, printed papers and other materials. Tate, Liverpool.
What is Otherness?
I had been starting to think about the idea of the self verse the other as the main idea for my essay. However, I didn’t really know much about this topic but I had an idea about the direction it would go in. This article was super interesting and really clearly expressed the thoughts I had been trying to articulate previously.
Ted talk – Embracing Otherness, Embracing Myself.
Ted talk – Is there a real you?