Decontextualizated Fashion Editorial – Multi-Ethnic Gallery

Paolo Roversi, Multi-Ethnic Gallery, Vogue Italia, January 2013.

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Paolo Roversi’s Multi-Ethnic Gallery displays ethnic inspired designs worn by models from the country suggested by the clothes and the captions. Such a choice highlights the potential intention of the photographer to construct a feeling of authenticity. From a formal perspective, the treatment of the image evokes an older time and visually establishes a parallel with photographs taken of foreigners in the colonization period. The aesthetic and composition (the models posing against a nude background) could be compared to a scientific categorizing methodology borrowed from natural history (isolation of  the subject, contrast between the foreground and the background, lighting giving a sense of life and realism).

Historically, “the human figure had been the primary focus of most art historical studies of the colonized Other and racialized subjectivities” since “racialized power relationships are principally represented via images of the body” (Kriz 2003, 85). Thus, the othering process takes place in these images exclusively on the model’s body and garments, as opposed to recontextualized editorials where Otherness is also defined by the physical setting. The abstract location of Multi-Ethnic Gallery resembles visual imagery strategies of natural history book, measuring, controlling, organizing objectifying and subordinating ethnic bodies and sartorial representations. Intrinsically, it is representing power relationship between Westerners and Colonies (Africa, Asia, South America). The caption accompanying the images are further reinforcing this parellel with natural history catalogues, the “written description possess[ing] (…) authority” (Kriz 2003, 88) and directing the viewer’s gaze on what to decipher in the image, i.e. the authenticity of the models and garments. The model’s static bodies are surrogates for the domestication of Otherness taking place in the fashion industry.

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  1. […] rather than understanding these garments as dynamic organisms interacting with foreign influences. Paolo Roversi’s Multi-Ethnic Gallery editorial exemplifies such biased […]



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