Model / Animal

13 Aug


This month, in the September issue of Harper’s Bazaar is an editorial spread called “Wild Things” featuring Naomi Campbell. Photographed by Jean-Paul Goude, they picture Naomi Campbell running alongside a cheetah in a cheetah-print bodysuit, playing jump rope with monkeys, straddling a crocodile, and, of course, riding an elephant. It feels almost ridiculous to type those photographic scenarios out.

I am so bored with the image of black models running free in Africa with animals, or even, black models as animals themselves. I am also bored with this picture of Africa as a densely unpopulous, primitive place with animals as its one valuable offering. I was surprised that this was shot by Jean-Paul Goude because I’m familiar with his super-modern and edgy photographs of Grace Jones, there is certainly no modernity here.

Some perpectives of these photographs suggest that Goude is satirizing the idea of the black model in this role, see a response below from Sans Artifice:

As per usual the continent as a whole is represented by the jungle and a black female is compared, however subtly to something that is animalistic and wild. Naomi runs alongside cheetahs, mounts a crocodile and jumps rope with chimps – hardly progressive material but the sheer gusto with which she accomplishes each task (paired with the maniacal look on her face) takes things into the level of parody. It’s as though they’re pointing at the ridiculousness of every other editorial with this subject matter and having fun doing so.

Whether or not it is Goude’s intention to parody these types of editorials, I think it is ineffective. It’s not obvious enough of a parody to be provacative and instead it continues to exist unquestioned by most readers, deepening a psychological pairing of black bodies and animals.

Naomi Campbell looks stunning, though. And who doesn’t love cheetahs.





5 Responses to “Model / Animal”

  1. jb August 13, 2009 at 5:27 pm #

    i agree it should be more obvious that it’s a parody…
    that would be more interesting… and a poc model who is not naomi campbell

  2. Olives and Werewolves August 13, 2009 at 6:07 pm #

    Indeed. A parody is ineffectual if there isn’t any sort of cue contained that a general audience would recognize as parodic. Also, most unfortunately, the “poc/animal” parallel, no matter how ridiculous and outdated it is, from its inception to now, is missed on many as something to be ridiculed, dismissed and parodied. Failure for Goude. Naomi looks good though. She always does. Too bad she’s batshit, attack-you-for-bringing-the-wrong-m&m’s crazy. I wonder if any of the animals were concerned about getting brained by a cellphone?

    I don’t think this would have worked if he’d tried the same approach with Grace Jones back in the day. She’s from outer space and is a character all her own.

  3. Ciuma October 7, 2009 at 12:22 pm #

    Who doesn’t love cheetahs?! How about the people who shot and killed the one(s) she is wearing over her OWN skin!

  4. Gustavo September 30, 2010 at 7:36 pm #

    How come the irony isn’t obvious? I think you guys totally missed the point. Goude is a great artist, and although he has perfected his technique along the years, he hasn’t changed his approach.

    He’s been dealing with the representation of women (specially black women) with the same humour and cynicism since he began his career. If most readers won’t be able to get it, well, they are the problem, not him.

    How is it any different from this?

    Or this?

    Or this?

    It’s the same artist, always causing fashion to question itself, in a brilliant manner.


  1. Link Love: Chic Batik « Like a Whisper - August 20, 2009

    […] a short but interesting post about the new Vanity Fair spread entitled “Model/Animal” CB’s author questions the ongoing animalization of black women in the fashion industry […]

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