In Vanity Fair’s history, longer than a century’s worth, the July/ August issue features work by its first Black photographer, Dario Calmese, with a cover of actress Viola Davis. This is astonishingly timely and telling as it comes at a time when equality and justice for the Black community is gaining ineffably well-deserved attention and traction. It also is telling because it suggests opportunities on the large scale for Black people. Calmese’s work also brings into conversation the ample and equally (if not more) salient perspectives of the Black eye.
Calmese meant to invoke the 1963 image of “The Scourged Back” on the cover. The 1963 image is of a whipped slaved with scars on his back. Viola Davis stands with her back halfway to the camera and a blue gown draped over her shoulders. Twitter sounded off about how Vogue photographer Black star Olympian, Simone Biles, and couldn’t hire black talent. This milestone brings into play preexisting but overshadowed narratives, storytelling, and issues of diversity in relation to representation and the Black community in journalism and fashion.
While the protests had been seen by some as disruptive and had enable some to loot and cause chaos, their intent was pure and genuine. They were peaceful, moreover, and they were just necessary. Calmese’s image of Davis is a nonviolent, disembodied form of protest that is equally vocal. It speaks volumes and histories in a powerful manner. The Black eye can only depict the Black experience as well as Calmese did. While magazines like Vogue and the rest of fashion magazines (and entertainment magazines) need to take note and give those chances to Black people, Vanity Fair’s achievement is commendable and rejoicing.
By: Umar Siddiqui