I just posted some source information on this and other photos in the series on my other blog, Threadbared. While there are several reasons why these images are not exactly a perfect fit for the Of Another Fashion project (the women were/are not U.S. based and the representational history of the images operates within the logics of sartorial Orientalism), I’m including them here because such images - published in LIFE magazine in December 1951 - would have been a part of the national cultural imaginary about race and fashion in the U.S. In this way, these images (like some of the advertisements and editorials I’ve previously posted) reveal something about the complex assemblage of race, gender, fashion, and beauty that would have shaped the ways in which women of color in the U.S. were seen and saw themselves.
Reblogged from garconniere
wow. thanks for this. i’m glad you found the original source, as it completely changes the context. when i first saw the image i wondered if it was a recent image (looks like it was taken with sx-70 polaroid film to me, which was just recently discontinued), but didn’t do any digging to find out more before i reblogged it. i just spent 15 minutes skimming though the link that cat posted, and like her i’m not sure how i feel… i think you hit the nail on the head in regards to being wary of the intentions behind, as you put it, “mainstream images of scantily clad women, particularly women of color in “exotic” settings.”
it also reminds me of some old national geographics i own; one from the early 40s has an image of a young woman looking at a rock formation in some sort of cave in the U.S. and the caption read something like “never mind the pretty girl! look at that rock formation.” i can laugh at it today, and did when i found it in a thrift store years ago, but then i think about the entire context: how women are often posed in these scenic landscape settings and are hence objectified, how heteronormative/”male gaze” captions like those are, assuming that all people reading are hetero men, and so on and so forth. in this 1951 life magazine photoshoot, shot for american audiences, it is also disconcerting to think of what the intentions of the photographer/the magazine were.
this is a bit of an off-topic rant, but: this entire situation illustrates my own frustrations with tumblr… killerbeesting posts this photo, without context, credit, a link to the original source, nothing. (now that i look back i see two of the 138 people who either reblogged or liked this image) where does the power of this image lie? to me, originally seen without the name of the photographer, the model, without any sort of context, i imagined it was a photograph of a young couple in love, on vacation on a beach. i get the sense now that this is the desired effect, but rather for the Western viewer of 1951 to see this person and this country as desireable, attainable, conquerable… and it makes me feel uncomfortable, to say the least.
how many images like this one circulate without context, without credit, in the belly of the tumblr beast? what long-lasting impacts will an image-sharing social media contraption like tumblr have on visual culture, and how we understand images? this a longtime conundrum of mine…