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This is the main picture of our new campaign for next summer.
I took it at the upper terrace which is on the top of our office in Varanasi (Benaras).
Anand who is our favourite model is holding a cushion in linen with an aari embroidery inspired by the Lodhi Gardens in Delhi matching with the throw in the background (RED HALO – Summer 2009).
Our collections allow us to use traditional artcrafts that we work with a contemporary eye.
It is also a real human adventure which gathers people from several cultures and religions with a significant respect of brotherhood.
The weight of cultural traditions, conventions and customs is still very important in the holy city and therefore no woman around me has accepted to pose in the frame of this work.
Anand is not a professional model, he is a majhi (Hindi word for boatman) on the Ganges, however season after season he became our favourite model for the catalogues.
It allows him to have a little fame among the few people who are working along the ghats.
It is also a way for me to shake an Indian statement which often gives a preference to light skin colour.
According Indian society, actors or models should have a light skin colour complexion which is called “fair” and anyone with a dark skin has very few possibilities in those industries.
Therefore the whole population is trying to get this skin shade believing that it will be easier to find an husband or a wife, a job and friends.
No one walks on the sunny side of the road, girls wear long gloves and cover their face whenever they drive a bike, people use “White perfect” hoping to look lighter for a job interview or a party…
And the funny thing is that in France it is the opposite.
There people praise a dark skin which is a symbol of health and wealth, and they use self-tanners and go to “sun shops” in order to get some artificial tan all year long and for many an Indian dark skin is the most beautiful skin complexion.
When I show pictures of supermodels like Alek Wek, Indians can’t understand how she managed to work for labels such as Chanel…
In this quest for a perfect skin colour the only winner is that well-known French company which is selling to both countries either “White perfect” or self-tanners.
In addition this is a comment wrote by a friend under this image when I posted it on my Flickr page a few weeks ago:
Muiz Anwar says:
“i really really think this series is fantastic – not only does it look beautiful – but it subverts that whole cultural taboo on how dark you are denoting how attractive you are and the caste system – luxurious, brightly coloured fabrics associated with those who are in the elite, opulent end of the societal specturm, made more beautiful with the contrast against a dark skinned native.
having read your comment though, I understand that it wasn’t as deep as this, but often images can be interpreted in different ways especially in regions where using a dark skinned model holds so much cultural weight.
Congratulations on a beautiful image, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! ”
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