I have two daughters; Becca, a photography student away at school in Colorado and the other, Emma, an artsy model/dancer/actress type. Becca has always had Emma available to photograph, but never wanted to…totally bored with her sister as her subject, not interested. But now that she has been away from home the last six months, struggling to get other people to do what comes so naturally to Emma, she is beginning to have a tad bit more appreciation for her willing muse.
Over the last two months she has texted her every few days to tell her about new ideas she had that she wanted to shoot when she came home for Christmas. They finally got to work on a number of different shoots today, now that the holiday hoopla is dying down.
I am totally biased, I think the pictures are really great. I am always impressed with her creativity and the willingness of both girls to try new things. Whether she dousing her sister with flour, covering her in paint or tying her up in string, both girls are always all in when it comes to taking photographs.
She excitedly went off to post a couple of the finished photos to her social media accounts. Immediately she was hit with massive blowback on the photos where the face and body is painted black and white, with people calling her out for being racist for posting a “blackface” picture.
Anyone that truly knows my daughter knows she is not racist but we all know social media is not a caring friend. She did not know what “blackface” was and had to Google it. It never occurred to her in a million years that the diagonal sections of paint she applied to her sister’s face and upper torso had any connection to something seen as racist. Seeking out black and white in our environment and capturing it on camera in interesting ways has been the topic for several assignments in her classes.
After the tweets started to multiply, she immediately deleted the black and white photos from her accounts and apologized for offending anyone. She was shaken by the reaction and in tears. This is one of those times where your mama claws come out in an effort to protect her, but at the same time, I want to make sure we use this as a teaching moment.
I know the response that I gave her, but I am curious to hear yours.
How would you have responded to her situation?
Should she have deleted the photos?
She asked me, if the paint was matte, would it have gotten the same reaction?
As a photographer is it more important to never offend anyone or to be willing to spark conversation?
One of the many lessons learned today; things aren’t as black and white as they seem.