Photographer Sebastian Kim has released a statement in response to the controversy surrounding his “African Queen” editorial for Numéro, which stars 16-year-old white model Ondria Hardin painted in apparent blackface.
On his agency JedRoot‘s blog, Kim denies that this was his intention, and clarifies that he was unaware of what the title of the spread would be:
I would like to apologize for any misunderstanding around my recent photos for Numero France. It was never my intention (nor Numero’s) to portray a black woman in this story. Our idea and concept for this fashion shoot was based on 60’s characters of Talitha Getty, Verushka and Marissa Berenson with middle eastern and Moroccan fashion inspiration. We at no point attempted to portray an African women by painting her skin black. We wanted a tanned and golden skin to be showcased as part of the beauty aesthetic of this shoot.
It saddens me that people would interpret this as a mockery of race. I believe that the very unfortunate title “African Queen” (which I was not aware of prior to publication) did a lot to further people’s misconceptions about these images. It was certainly never my intention to mock or offend anyone and I wholeheartedly apologize to anyone who was offended.
What do you think of the explanation?
While Kim is clearly right in saying that the title exacerbated the issue, the “tanned and golden skin” alone should have been a warning sign to everyone on set. Hardin is neither Middle Eastern nor Moroccan (which, of course, is very much a part of Africa), and the mere fact that the women from whom he drew inspiration are white shouldn’t be an excuse. There are so many eyes that look at any given editorial before it goes to publication — did no one question how the images would come across to the culturally sensitive reader?
Then again, this isn’t exactly the first time the magazine has altered a photographer’s images against their wishes. We can’t help but wonder if Hardin didn’t look quite so bronzed in the original set.
See the spread again below, and let us know if you accept Kim’s apology:
this is some kind of spaceship or something.