This here is a photograph of Dutch supermodel Lara Stone’s face and body plastered in dark brown make-up for a feature in fashion bible Vogue.
Other pictures in the 14-page spread show her face caked in what looks like white clay, while she wears a series of bizarre hats and face masks.
The text accompanying the images in the magazine’s French edition gives no hint as to why the 25-year-old model’s skin was darkened.
The pictures received mixed feedback on internet fashion blogs.
U.S. website Jezebel branded the magazine’s editor Carine Roitfeld and photographer Steven Klein as ‘culturally insensitive’ for publishing them.
Semiotics is the science of reading signs. Words, images and symbols are any representation which carry meaning and some signs may have ‘arbitrary’ relationships to what they actually represent.
The text I have chosen (left image of Stone) is certainly a controversial subject. This sign is determined by both its signifier and signified as well as the denotation and connotations it carries.
Quite simply, this is an image of a person sitting down with their neck tilted and hand on leg. However, what is signified and what this image connotates goes far deeper. When I saw this image without having any prior knowledge to the story behind it, it made me think of a skinny model posing for a photo shoot, most likely for a fashion magazine from the way the model is positioned to show the clothing off in a seductive way.
It is only when we are given more information we are able to interpret this image on a personal level. These differing interpretations depend on shared knowledge, myths and ideologies. This is the way we imagine the world to be, the set of belief characteristics of a social group or individual.
The photo connotates, to me, of a white woman that has been painted to represent the image of a black African-American lady. Even though I am a white Australian I find this a highly offensive and disrespectful plot to attract attention the the magazine.
Aside from the fact the model was portrayed to depict someone else completely, it doesn’t fully detract from what is the selling point-the clothing.
Shevelle Rhule, fashion and beauty editor at black women’s magazine Pride, commented: “It’s as if we’ve stepped back in time.” This particular comment and previous ones stated above demonstrate how the flow of changing ideologies and cultural myths influence the way in which a text may be read.