Fashion and Race: "The Intersection of Race and the Gaze in Fashion Photography"

By Parsons School of Design

Curated by Kimberly M. Jenkins

The person who commands the lens of a camera, and thus determines the viewer’s gaze, is a crucial power broker for what an image communicates and to whom it communicates. This section of "Fashion and Race: Deconstructing Ideas, Reconstructing Identities" showcases three photographers who are both harnessing and redirecting the gaze, developing images that express joy, resilience, introspection, and transcendence.

"Hooded" (2017) by Myles LoftinParsons School of Design

An introspective of Black womanhood is explored through the lens of Rachel Cassandra Gibbons, whose works 'La Période Bleue' and 'La Période Rouge' adopt self-portraiture as a form of self-care and provide a visual representation of resilience.

"Almost Primary: The Blue Period" and "Almost Primary: The Red Period" (mounted) (2018) by Rachel Cassandra GibbonsParsons School of Design

"Disrupting the status quo of invisibility, these self-portraits give into the ebb and flow that Black women face regularly. Our existence falls into the grumbling white noise of 'the Other' as we continue to be silenced and unseen. "Almost Primary" seeks to unearth the words left unsaid, the tears choked back but, above all, the resilience and astonishing vitality that lives within the Black woman."

–Rachel Cassandra Gibbons

"Almost Primary: The Blue Period (La Période Bleue), I" (2018) by Rachel Cassandra GibbonsParsons School of Design

"'Primal' is a word constantly attributed to Blackness, so the term 'primary' brings a way to challenge perceptions of Blackness through these bold colors. Adopting the primary color palette, the works expose varying elements of emotion and are a method of obscuring the body into invisibility; thus engaging in the controversial act of nearly dissolving Blackness entirely."

–Rachel Cassandra Gibbons

"Almost Primary: The Red Period (La Période Rouge), I" (2018) by Rachel Cassandra GibbonsParsons School of Design

Myles Loftin’s series, "Hooded," navigates the precariousness of being Black and joyful in the midst of police violence that targets Black men, while "Colored" riffs off of the (historically) reductive term used to identify Black people, instead celebrating the agency that can be found in wearing unnatural hair color.

"Hooded" and "Colored" (mounted) (2018) by Myles LoftinParsons School of Design

"‘Hooded' is a multimedia project that humanizes and decriminalizes the societal image of Black boys and Black men dressed in hoodies. I photographed four Black teens/men and portrayed them in a positive light that is in direct contrast of the media representation that has oppressed us. This project seeks to understand where these negative portrayals come from, and how we can change them for a better future."

–Myles Loftin

"Hooded" (2017) by Myles LoftinParsons School of Design

"With this project, I was particularly interested in documenting young Black people who have made the decision to add color to their hair either through braid extensions, dye, wigs, or weave. Each subject is photographed on a plain white backdrop, inspired by the classic barbershop hair charts I grew up seeing. With each portrait session, I interviewed the subject asking about their decision to add color to their hair."

–Myles Loftin

"Colored" (2018) by Myles LoftinParsons School of Design

Stevens Añazco develops portraits of subjects with aplomb, centering queer, trans, and non-conforming people of color, in particular. Añazco’s styling conveys a resplendency that draws a connection between panache and self-preservation, imploring the significance of inclusion and equitable representation.

"Jewel" and "Dominique" (mounted) (2016) by Stevens AnazcoParsons School of Design

"Identity has fueled my work because representation is important. Often times I find myself frustrated discussing and sharing experiences as it relates to identity with my peers. Visually, I want to challenge the viewer with different ways of representing diversity with the aid of casting and styling."

–Stevens Añazco

"Jewel" (2017) by Stevens AnazcoParsons School of Design

"My goal has been to continue to create images and stories that highlight inclusivity, focusing on representing minorities such as queer artists, creatives, talent and models who are often overlooked and underrepresented."

–Stevens Añazco

"Dominique" (2016) by Stevens AnazcoParsons School of Design

"Photographing Katiuscia Gregoire’s 'Hood Dandy' collection was a collaboration between the designer and myself where the concept was to shoot on the streets of New York, creating a contrast and discussion for her colorful collection."

–Stevens Añazco

"Hood Dandy" (look book image) (2017) by Katiuscia GregoireParsons School of Design

Credits: Story

This concludes Part Three of the exhibition, "The Intersection of Race and the Gaze in Fashion Photography." Part One, "Deconstructing Ideas, Reconstructing Identities," can be viewed here, and Part Two, "The Racialized Body and Fashionability," can be viewed here.

The exhibition pursues a critical reflection of race through creative practice and is based upon the elective course, Fashion and Race, taught by Kimberly M. Jenkins from 2016-2019 at Parsons School of Design. Topics explored in the course include, but are not limited to: how the body is racialized, how the concept of race has influenced aesthetics in fashion and art history, how material culture and style is appropriated or misrepresented, and how the business of fashion comes to terms with race.

This exhibition was curated by Kimberly M. Jenkins and made possible with support from the Sheila C. Johnson Design Center, Parsons School of Fashion, and Parsons School of Art and Design History and Theory.

The curator wishes to thank the following contributors for their insight, support, and resources:

Sheila C. Johnson Design Center staff:
Christiane Paul, Kristina Kaufman, Daisy Wong, Daniel Chou

Exhibition interns and graphic designers:
Fatima Coulibaly, BA Culture and Media ‘21
Allison Esannason, BFA Fashion ‘19
Karla Maria Dipuglia Perez, BFA Fashion ‘19
Manasi Vashi, BFA Communication Design '20
Daveed Baptiste, BFA Fashion '20

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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