brian shumway – black girl

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Brian Shumway

Black Girl

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“Modeling is an addiction.” Johanie, 24, aspiring model

Black Girl is a portrait series on young black women in the New York City area who aspire to be models.

Even as little girls, many women dream of becoming a model. The glamour of strutting along the runway with cameras flashing, being a spokesmodel for the latest line of make-up, or being plastered on billboards in Times Square can be too enticing to ignore. Shows like America’s Next Top Model, which can shoot a model to stardom almost instantly, and easy accessibility to professional photographers through numerous modeling websites make this dream seem more realistic and attainable than ever before. Indeed, everyday countless girls around the United States and the world are actively pursuing this dream.

There is, however, a huge segment of aspiring models who will find attaining their dream disproportionately difficult. They are black women. We all realize, at least in some way, that the mainstream modeling world is white-washed, especially at the high-fashion end. At the February 2010 New York Fashion Week, a whopping 85% of all models used on the runway were white, just 8% black (see This is in no way representative of New York City’s, the United States’, or the world’s population. On the ground level, where women are just starting to put a portfolio together, the reality is quite different than Fashion Week’s. In doing this project, I used a modeling website to contact models. I found that, despite so few black professionals, nearly three-thousand young black women (just within 50 miles of my NYC zip code) are striving to attain their dream, or at least their interpretation of it.

Despite the odds and a stark downturn in the fashion, advertising, and magazine industries, these aspiring models have high hopes and remain steadfast. They work hard, often juggling school, work, relationships, and family (some are even mothers) to find a few hours a week to squeeze in a shoot, or perhaps two if they’re lucky. Using an approach that is part anthropology and part fantasy, the women photographed are a cross-section of real people who want to do every kind of modeling, from runway, high-end fashion, print or commercial work to eye-candy and artistic nudes. Their interests are varied, as are their looks and beauty, but this one dream ties them all together. Behind that dream are fundamental human issues that touch upon identity, body, beauty, sexuality, race, and the drive to be recognized in a culture obsessed with fame and celebrity. I hope that these portraits can in some way contribute to their pursuit.

Post Script:

The portraits here I feel represent how the models wanted to look. For each shoot, we would talk about possible ideas and outfits before or during the shoot. Many of the models were open to shooting everything from high-fashion to lingerie, and some even nude. She would bring different things to wear, try them on, see how it looked, and we (or I, or she) would say yea or nay. None of the models are wearing something they didn’t want to wear (or any outfit they felt to be demeaning) or suggest wearing themselves. The pictures give us a glimpse into how the models understand fashion, modeling and themselves as a model-in-the-making.



Brian Shumway is a New York City based photographer. He has worked for publications like Time, Newsweek, Smart Money, Reader’s Digest, and XXL. His work has been awarded and exhibited throughout the United States. Please visit his website to learn more.


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Brian Shumway


359 Responses to “brian shumway – black girl”

  • I like the essay and the idea for it and the photographs themselves are really well done, bravo…..but……I would like to know if the photographer asked the girls to wear the clothing in the portraits? and if so why he chose what he chose or if the models were themselves chose what to wear. Most of the photographs bother me a bit because they make the girls look exploited or cheap even. That said, I really like the opening photograph and the one where she is wearing a shiny pink dress and standing on a car, #11.

  • Interesting series,Brian but makes me wonder exactly what these women
    perceive the fashion industry to be and what modelling is in their eyes.

    The way most are presented, or the way they choose to present themselves, suggests
    to me that, perhaps, they are targeting the porn industry.

  • @valery: with each model it was a bit different, but generally, we would talk about possible ideas and outfits before or during the shoot. she’d bring different things to wear, try them on, see how it looked, and we (or I, or she) would say yea or nay. none of them are wearing something they didn’t want to wear or suggest wearing themselves. hope that answers your question.

    @mtomalty: porn? really? but seeing how they see fashion, modeling and themselves in that world is part of the point.

  • I see lots of hope for a common dream. My own personal issues with the message sent by these types of photos of women in everyday media is brought up when I view these photos.

    The photos really capture that hope of a dream and also shows what these women cannot see. I like this essay Brian. Thanks for sharing.

  • There’d be lots to say.. but.. LOVE nr. 12, strong!

  • Text (again!): many people, even those who try, can’t be models and feel it’s because of what they look like…

    Simple subject, done aptly, with some environmental props, but largely bereft of social context/approach that the text might have us wanting for.

    This is more like pictures they could use in a portfolio of their own (which you might have given permission for).

    Last but not least: Women are beautiful! (you can quote me on that)

  • #13 is my favorite, with great “geometry” and psychology working together.
    Because of the (blahblah…) “blackness” projected ? Maybe, I am not sure, but whatever, superb!

  • Brian,

    My ‘porn’ comment wasn’t intended as a critique of the images nor the women.

    I guess, as you say, the way they are presenting themselves is a reflection on
    their perception of the modeling business.

    Unfortunately, they are very unlikely to find work within the mainstream ‘fashion’
    business simply by the virtue of the way they present themselves.

    Not unlike a photographers portfolio- If you present images of zebras, there’s very little
    chance you’re going to be hired to shoot cars.

  • This is really sad.

  • Very interesting! I am currently working on a fashion photography project in Milan, and this essay brings up interesting questions. Thanks for sharing! congrats for showing on burn!

  • brian – very cool. #14 maybe if I were to choose a single. For me, it really works (hah! whatever ‘works’ is) Essentially imho it is something that you would come back to again and again. This is one of the reasons I prefer burn essays… diversity and something a little more [closer] on the edge. The essay works (again) without text – that is what makes it special. Well done, congrats, best.

  • Read the text first hoped for something beyond “the pose”……….. the model/ photographer/intent relationship comes across as……there is none

  • Well, once again my travels have prevented me from logging onto Burn since the Cheyenne River essay, but right now I am facing a one-and-a-half delay at Fairbanks International Airport, where wireless is free, so I opened up Burn and – Whoa! – I had to scroll down the page fast and get that beautiful, sexy, girl off the screen fast because the lady sitting next to me gave me a look like I was a dirty old man. So I will have to wait until later to go through the slideshow, because who knows what will come up next?

    I was surprised to read that the percentage of black models is so low. I don’t watch a whole lot of TV, but when I do, it would seem that black models play a prominent role in fashion, makeup and jewelry ads. I trust that New York Fashion weeks is representative, but on the surface it would appear otherwise.

  • Very interesting essay. I have done a small amount of fashion shooting. I developed a relationship with one model and we will do shoots together from time to time. It is very collaborative and that’s what I like about it. My next challenge is to try some nudes, although I hesitate (I can see David jumping up and down as he reads this saying just f’ing shoot it :))) I like the take on the essay with respect to under-representation . If you ever scan craigslist under gigs and creative there are tons of models looking to do shoots, and lots of photographers looking for models. I usually look at this every couple of days just out of curiosity. I personally like # 20 the best.

    All the best,


  • Fascinating. Easy to write off at first glance but I think use of the “pose” is actually what makes these strong and subtle and complex vs yet another day in the life pj piece. Glad you included their quotes.

  • Jamie Maxtone-Graham

    burn posts another superb essay. Brian, I am increasingly interested in a social-realist photography which offers the opportunity for subjects to participate in the creation of the image and more and more I feel like this is a far more honest concept and approach to what happens between cameras and people. I like what you have done here very much and I appreciate the blurring of boundaries. It is rich material on many levels: pick one and I feel it’s operating there.

    Under it all, though, I feel a deep sadness. It is one of those profoundly human feelings when presented with this kind of hope.

  • Okay. I am finally home, in my office, alone with two of my cats who will not judge me nor jump to conclusions.

    So I took a good look at your essay. It is one of those pieces of work that truly tells me what a tough world this is and how hard it is to turn dreams into reality, yet how necessary it is to dream.

    I agree with Frank that #20 is particularly compelling, yet there is something about #7 that is at once so honest and contradictory that it may be my favorite – but I am not certain.

  • j’ai adoré cette série sur ces femmes black. l’idée est très séduisante. tout est parfaitement maitrisé, chaque photo raconte une histoire, on imagine leur vie, on essaie de se mettre à leur place et de vivre.
    bravo, je suis admiratif.

  • Brian,
    This series had me so torn. On the one hand the images are so beautiful and masterful. Vivid yet real. But the content of the essay does disturb me slightly, only because most of these women will not be models regardless of there race. They do not look like models. So watching the essay and reading the text makes me feel kind of sad about the dreams some of these women seem to have. It actually gives me flashbacks to Diane Arbus’ park avenue portraits. Was that something you expected or were aiming for?
    It is not any of these women are unattractive but even the very beautiful ones don’t have those elusive qualities that transforms beauty into something superhuman, that is an ordinary girl into a model. I think what is upsetting is the thought that they might have their confidence shattered by such a cruel and heartless industry. I suppose in that way you have frozen an innocent dream in it’s purest place. The dream most girls harbor to be beautiful.
    Once again, gorgeous photos and very thought provoking work.

  • I find the presentation of figures somewhat confusing regarding the relationship of high fashion to the black community.

    85% of models were white, 8% were black: Is there a problem with these figures? is it representational? Do they correlate with the buyers market of “high fashion”? Is it important that it should be representational? If it was representational would an increase in black models (or models of other elasticities for that matter) cause a similar change in the buyers market?

    I’m asking these questions because I’m generally interested, and the project looks like it has great potential.

    Also, prefacing the images with references to the high fashion modelling industry seems a little out of context to the images and the models quotes.

    To me it didn’t come across as if their possible rejections or difficulties were just down to their skin colour. Age, height, and size amongst other issues played their parts according to their quotes.
    And obviously these are issues faced by all models.

    So would specifically concentrating on models who were/are trying to break in high fashion have helped with the direction? Is this what these girls initially attempted and failed and then ventured into their other modeling worlds (such as glamor)?

  • Excellent essay! I like the point of view and the message. Bravo.

    Only one weakness I see. The color or rather the line of color. For me it could looks better.
    but anyway, great job!

  • i’ve enjoyed reading everyone’s comments. thanks so much.

    @mnm no i wasn’t going for the diane arbus thing. not sure i’ve even seen those pictures. well maybe they don’t have that elusive quality because i’m a horrible fashion photographer. maybe if they got in front of a real fashion photog, they could be magically transformed.

    @jamesdodd the point of the figures is that the system is biased against not only black models, but all non-white models. of course there are other factors in being a model but it seems, thought, that the most important factor is skin color. as i say in the essay, i shot models who had interests in all types of modeling, not just high fashion. hope that answers your questions!

  • “…how they see fashion, modeling and themselves in that world is part of the point.”

    Brian, a most interesting view of self-perception and handled skillfully.

  • When I read the artist statement, I really wanted to like this story, as I totally agree with your assesment of the fashion industry.

    But as I scrolled through the images, I got really sad, and angry.

    These images, though well-crafted, are no different from the way black women are usually shown…I was anticipating insight into who these women are, not played-out stereotypes of “blackness”. The poses, the clothes, make them look cheap and exploited/exploitable. Come on…can’t we move on from objectifying people for “art”? That’s the easy way out.

    Wasn’t it possible to look at them as women? To that end: who are they? Why do they aspire to be models? Is it about being seen – really seen, by a society that might often dismisses and stereotypes them? Is it about wanting to escape their lives? There are real questions here that could have been answered in this essay, and that would have elevated this work into something really great.

  • I will second Marcin but i will disagree with Marcin color regarding…i think colors are fine, no problem at all…Dope :)

  • Scratch what I said about portfolios pix yesterday. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Much psychology in more than one portrait, I am getting more into it, that is, in what is informed by, but not physically in, the frame.

    I don’t even know that it is about dreams of modeling, or at least I find, thru that subject, it’s about some young women… Young black women.

  • Fascinating stuff Brian, congratulatinos.

    My general view of the fashion industry is not a positive one, I’m kinda with Leonard Cohen “I don’t like your fashion business mister”. On the other hand I do recognise that it is a passion and an art to some.

    There is an entire industry based on aspiring models. Photographers who specialise in doing portfolios, modeling agencies, hair, make-up, clothing, etc etc. The aspiring models spend huge sums of money and devote enormous energy towards the goal of making it big. The male parallel is the sports industry, where thousands of kids, and their parents dream of making it in the big leaques. In either case, most will be dissapointed.

    I do see the Arbus comparison. There is a vacant sadness in the expressions. These are surely not fashion pictures. These are very provocative and revealing portraits of aspiring models.

    I’m very glad you have included the quotes from the models. They surprised me, and made me re-think my assumptions about these women. Art, self expression, self exploration,..not the motivations I had expected.

    thanks for this

  • Train wreck photography.
    so its fairly obvious that most of these women have no chance of being models (certainly not the type of modelling they might be aspiring to)…..and you HAD to know that right??
    Yet you made really lame faux fashion shots with them. Motive??
    Is this about them, or you?
    Dont get me wrong a few of these ‘portraits’ are strong, but NOT, i would argue, in the way these people imagined.

  • john g

    I have to dis-agree with you.
    While some of these women are not typical model material, a competent portrait/fashion shooter could make any of them look glamerous. Stop by the “Americas next top model” tv show next time you are flipping channels. By and large they are all pretty ordinary looking women. Coached by proffesionals, glamed up by stylists, shot by a skilled photographer and enhanced by great post-production they all look amazing in their photographs.

  • I fully trust you portrayed these young women like they wanted to be portrayed, but I get no sense that you saw them as they’d like to be seen. I may be wrong about that, it wouldn’t be surprising, but I’m absolutely certain that much — likely an overwhelming majority — of your audience isn’t going to see them that way. As the comments above demonstrate, sad is the most the common reaction. And I’m sure a lot of people, and by that I mean those other people, think something more along the lines of “ridiculous”. In fact, a lot of these proverbial people would probably consider this essay to be “ghetto porn.” The term “ghetto porn”, btw, has nothing whatsoever to do with showing a little skin, or even sexuality. It’s more about getting off on the pain and suffering of others. At least the cultural manifestations of that pain and suffering. And if not actually getting off, something akin to rubbernecking at the scene of an horrific accident. I don’t see it that way, but all my experience here in New York tells me a lot of people would.

    As a taste, bfphotographer makes good points above. I’m a bit too close to these issues right now to expound on them publicly, but I’ll just say that I don’t think this has much to do with the fashion industry. What we’re seeing goes far deeper than that. Both for the viewers and the viewed.

    I’m sure you must be aware that this essay is morally questionable? These photographs would hurt a lot of people if they saw them. Not just the subjects. A lot of people. You can’t possibly live in New York and be unaware of that. I trust you’ve asked those moral questions and found answers you are comfortable with. I trust you’re coming from the right place. I understand that if it’s not morally questionable, it’s probably not very good. It’s not like I’ve never made a morally questionable editorial decision, much less a photographic one. I make them all the time. So I’m not going to judge. I would if I knew the answers, including how you ask and answer those questions, and the answers were wrong, but I don’t, so I won’t. And I’m serious about that. In many ways, I’m inclined to like this work. The subject is important. The women are beautiful. The essay tells us things we probably didn’t know. Photographically, I have no questions. I think it’s very well done.

    And I should mention that they were quite lucky to have you take their pictures, to get that quality of work. If you look at Craig’s list, there’s a mini industry dedicated to exploiting these women. I’m sure most of them end up paying a lot for crappy photos.

  • Gordon. A soft enough filter and some good potatoshop can make a turd look like marilyn monroe from the right angle…but that aint what we are looking at here is it? We are looking at people being used to make a statement.

  • interesting discussion. i should probably chime in.

    @john: what women really has a chance at being a model, whatever her race? my point with this is that black women specifically have an even harder time at it. and how are they being used? is not anyone who shoots a project with a specific idea in mind technically ‘using’ the subjects? the statement i am making happens to correspond with reality. your point is pedestrian and moot. no need for the hostility. so you don’t like it. that’s fine.

    @michael: ALL of the women i shot have seen the pictures i took of them. and ALL of them saw my work before we shot, so they had an idea of what the results would be. and believe it or not they all shot with my BECAUSE they liked my work. whether or no they liked the pictures i took of them specifically is a different matter. in fact, some did not. but many did. so that’s just the nature of photography and people. i’m not sure how this is ‘morally questionable’ (or at least anymore questionable than shooting people in slums and little children getting their bodies blown apart by war)?

  • “Yet you made really lame faux fashion shots with them. Motive??
    Is this about them, or you?”

    Yea I am of the mind that this is about the photographer and the text is a an attempt to justify the images that never communicated beyond “look at me”

  • Brian. Really? You never conducted the least bit of self-questioning about the ethics of this project? Nothing even along the lines of bfphotographers’s complaints about played-out stereotypes of blackness or exploitation? I can imagine you being able to answer those questions satisfactorily, but to not even ask them?


  • I enjoyed seeing labia majora while reading about high fashion, but was highly offended by the second paragraph of the text which attempts to artificially create the illusion that these images have anything to do with race. the only racist thing this essay touches upon is the fact that the photographer chose only black girls and chose to show most of the girls looking like the stereotypical ghetto black girl we are already bombarded with in the media. this essay helps solidify the biases you pretend you are trying to chip away.

    I find these photographs much more interesting , valid, and honest when I look at them as a satire about the hunger for a chance to be recognized as ‘beautiful’. Great idea for an essay but I don’t think these images push that concept far enough and fall apart when they are propped up on the race card.

    I am not against exploitation
    but I am against bullshit

  • It isn’t that this work is very creative or well done, but women portrayed are attractive and interesting, though look vulgar… and it seems a very good medium format camera was used for this job :)) … OK, the story written is relevant, and as a whole these pictures have a power of spirit…

  • well that’s where we simply disagree. i don’t feel like the pictures are stereotypes or exploitative.

    @bfphotographer: the clothes are theirs! the poses are theirs! and that’s what makes it/them beautiful, not cheap. we get to catch a glimpse of how they see themselves as models. that’s the entire point! please read the model’s quotes on each image and my statement/other responses. that will hopefully give you the insight you want.

    i do agree that there is a melancholy to some of the project, but that is perhaps due to my own perception of the world. this ‘melancholy’ actually permeates throughout much of my other work, not just this particular project.

  • I just feel very very sad when I see this essay. The photos are very well done in an advertising/fashion sense; it’s just that I would want more out of life for these young women than to be valued only for their looks. I know this is my issue, not theirs, and definitely not our culture’s. In the world of fashion and advertising, beauty is everything.

    Speaking of which, have you seen Lauren Greenfield’s latest meltimedia work, Fashion Show? I saw it at the NY Photo Festival and was amazed by the presentation and chilled by the content.


  • Brian audience trumps the individual photographer after all that is your intent …..To present to an audience? They are photos without a connecting story visually

  • “I think right about now we have to beware of marketed Malcolms and Martins. Real people do real things.”–Chuck D.

    “Empathy is not simply a matter of trying to imagine what others are going through, but having the will to muster enough courage to do something about it. In a way, empathy is predicated upon hope.”—-Cornel West

    Forgive the cheap use of quotes (but again) to buttress a comment, but i dont have alot of time at the moment to write a bob black-length essay, so this will be short…

    The essay is powerful, strong and important in a number of ways. Forget the look of the work. Brian knows how to make photographs and knows how to richly and beautifully people and how to provide insight through portraiture. Anyone at all familiar with his work knows this. Just to remind folk, Brian had an earlier essay published at Burn a year ago (La chureca) which received glowing reviews: a powerful and strong series on Managua, Nicaragua: classically beautiful med format pictures of the live of the townspeople coping with poverty. What I loved about that essay, and what I love about Brian’s work in general, is the AMBIGUITY of his stories and the rich intelligence and empathy/compassion he brings to his subject matters. La Chureca (search the archives) was nearly universally applauded for his ‘beauty’ and ‘classicism”. What I loved about the story was that it was much more complex, much more ambiguous than what immediately meets the eye…a stranger and more dream like interpretation on the typical response to poverty….the same ambiguity and questioning resides in all Brian’s work…

    this is absolutely TRUE here as well! I think there is a much more subtle and honest questioning that is at play here and this begins with Brian’s relationship with these models and his engagement. I think the questions of streotypic portrayals of black women/black sexuality (whatever the hell that means) has to do with a question of what the audience perceives, in the same way that Melvin Van Peebles brilliant film “Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song” dealt directly with both African American experience AND the exploitation/sterotypes often portrayed……the uneasiness that many are feeling, i believe, is part of the intent and in many ways is another manifestation of the way and reality that these young women face in their struggle as aspirant models and as ‘black girls/models/beauties’….the fact that nearly every model and every outfit and every pose seems is connected to this, suggests to me that part of the essay’s strength lies in it’s challenge of us, the viewer and also the power of these women to make the choices (for this shoot) they have, even if those choices make us feel uncomfortable: their pose, their clothing, their choices here….

    we as photographers exploit/use/throw away most of the people we choose to photograph and we rarely (almost never) involve the subjects into the discussion/dialogue/work… mentioned above by Jaimie, one of the most important aspects (for me) of this specific work is the involvement and the discussion that these women have made and this, in truth, is both a counter to the industry (both the fashion industry AND the exploitive portraits/sex/sleep industry that’s out there (i’ll make portfolio pics, i’ll make u pretty/i’ll make u famous/I’ll etc etc) and thriving on Craig’s List, Art schools, backrooms, etc….

    if we are saddened by this series, part of that truth must come somehow from our empathy for these young, beautiful women…i hope and trust that sorrow isn’t because we think their dreams are silly becasue of their skin or body shape/size or posturing or fashion sense or over-all appearance but because we sense that, to begin with, people are sold a bill of goods that exploits their willing to be convinced that they are something (future models) they won’t become over what they are (powerful, real, beautiful people!) and that the latter, often, is not good enough…..

    by involving these ladies in making these choices in truth in making them co-authors of this essay (which is how i feel Brian did this, and i hope to goodness i’m not wrong about this) and collaborators instead of participants, these women SUCCEED HERE where they may not succeed in modeling, which is to to this:

    to show you one part of themselves whether or not it makes you comfortable or uncomfortable…


    and that to me is power, period.

    All I would love to have, now, is for these young women to comment here as well and to share their experiences with us…in this specific essay, i think it is part of the design…..

    i do not read this as all as a straight portrait shoot but one that gives the decisions to these women to make the specific choices and we must have that as a reassurance….

    again, for me, it is all about how the relationship and the work (the appearance and choices made here) came about….if this was simply about a photographer making all the decisions, i’d be with Michael Webster, but I suspect that it is more complex and I suspect that women will comment, at least some of the participants….

    i say this because I believe that when we look at a body of work we need to be familiar with the history of that photographers work….it’s part of our homework…and part of our homework to question and question ourselves…

    and one last addition….i suggest people have a look at Jodi Bieber’s project Real Beauty…maybe that will help provide context…

    thanks for sharing Brian…strong, work…and thanks to the women in the shoot…please invite them to chime in ! :


  • brian thanks for the reply. Please don’t take me saying they don’t look like models as an insult to either your photography or any of these women. Any models I have met or seen in real life are always strikingly different to look at than other people. Something about there faces and long, lean bodies. They always look kind of alien? But anyone can grab a shot of them on there Iphone and you can suddenly see why they are so sucessful as models- any camera loves them!
    I don’t think you went into this with any plan to exploit anyone- especially in the context of race that you have presented.Had you not included any text I think I would have seen this series as a modern study in portraits that are a more akin to the master painters ( number 11, well she could be coming out of a shell with cherubs surrounding her). And I do love these photos- they have a beauty all of there own. But I think my unease comes from both being a young woman and knowing what the industry is like. Most of these women are so young and still in that stage where you are starting to find ease with your sexuality and looks. A bit like an overenthusiastic puppy,it can be very hard to know how to present your body in a way that will serve you best. Hence the overtly sexual costumes that these women chose to wear. I honestly just worry that some of these girls would be laughed out of a modeling agency, which is nothing to do with you or them just a reflection of a stupid industry that has somehow become aspirational.

  • Bob..

    thanks, good perspective as usual… i was just about to write a comment on this and also mention Brian’s La Chuerca from early on in Burn…i have more to say on this essay, but let me wait just a bit now that you have made your comment…i too would love it if some of these young women, who surely have seen this by now, would make their own evaluations and comment here….

    and there is one more important aspect of this imo that nobody has mentioned yet…i want to see if someone will…one of the women just might

  • Excellent photographs. Very compelling and addictive. I do feel there is a bit of a gap between the statement and the photographs though. To me this work is more about aspects of modeling which are probably more or less equally applicable to aspiring models of all races. The percentage figure given about black model representation strikes me as a tad out of context. To me, one side of the work is about women wanting to be fashion models although they do not have the typically necessary features for this. Another side of the work is perhaps about just want to be a model and not necessary a typical fashion model. I find that side especially interesting…

  • Bob, clearly you are with me on this because you are considering those kinds of questions. Note that I never wrote that the pictures were stereotypical or exploitative. I merely noted that many people would find them so and referenced bfphotographer’s comments as an example. And I was curious how Brian answered those questions, and others like them, for himself. It honestly never occurred to me that he would never have considered them.

    I think, however, that I did somewhat misread the artist’s statement the first time through. The parts about so many hopefuls, so few openings, and variations of looks and beauty led me to believe that Brian was telling a story of a gulf between dreams and reality, one in which the great majority of the models had unrealistic expectations. That’s hardly a novel insight about the modeling industry, and I think it is fundamentally true, whether that’s what he’s actually saying or not. But when he writes “behind that dream are fundamental human issues that touch upon identity, body, beauty, sexuality, race…,” I am led to expect some awareness of issues beyond the aspirational woman pursuing her dream in a merciless industry angle. Some questioning of what lies beneath. Fundamental human issues, you know. About identity, body, beauty, sexuality, race. And particularly race since a good deal of the statement is about that.

    Anyway, I have my own ideas, and this essay does an excellent job of illustrating the end result of one in particular. So I like it. But between the artist’s statement and Brian’s subsequent comments, I suspect there’s quite a bit there he’s not seeing. And were this to become widely disseminated in African-American circles, I think he’d find many of the responses eye opening.

  • I don’t get the “being sad”, Patricia and others. But, yes, it would be great for some of these young women (who are not vulgar, just so much patronizing or at least, assumptions in many comments above. Let people be WHO they are, warts and all, and celebrate that which is not like you, without boxing it in some neat social stereotypes) to barge in, and “tell it like it is”.

    Brian, can you get some of them to do that for us?

  • There seems to be a certain alienation of audience in these essays, expectations of the audiences to be in the “know” about subject/intent/style etc. Sure there many of the burn audience are photographers and they can understand the language of visual representation but the wider audience is not part of that group. If you are catering for photographers only, fair enough but you will not sell your story to a audience relient and fed on mass circulation. By sell I do not mean the monetary kind of sell, I mean as a source of information.
    Many would look at the best 12 photos here and say kit would make a nice calander and leave it at that…………… that sort takes everything out of a so called intended context. This means that there is a communication problem with what is oprwese3nted.
    Tha last thing that one wants to happen here is that burn becomes a site for a niche audience which may happen unless photographers learn to engage the wider audiece and stop being so self orientated.
    Stringing a bunch of pictures together witha sketchy concept in the hope that others will understand is no longer enough for the audiences out there

  • Michael :)

    I completely understand your insight and perspective and fully understand it indeed and I didn’t mean to imply that you were referencing the ‘stereotypes’…for in truth, ‘stereotypes’ are external perceptions, judgements made by outsiders on a person/community/place…the truth is that the African Community, like all communities, is as varied and resistant to ‘stereotypes’ as all others…in fact, I don’t know at all what an african american woman (let alone a community) is supposed to look like/act like/think like/live like/study-work-live-love like, etc…that’s still the frustrating thing about stereotypes…they’re perpetuated by both outsiders and insiders and they uphold ideas that are simply superficial aspects….a “black” woman (like any other person) is both a part and apart of a place/time/community…and it is very true that the superficial aspects of this work (appearance/subject/aesthetic) borders (and I would argue purposefully) on ideas that MUST make us question both our ideas and our relationship to women, women of color, exploitation of women, women of color and all the attendant historical relationship of what that entails…and I also think that Brian (contrary to earlier comments) has indeed thought about this, must have thought of this, because the women here were empowered and collaborators in the pictures….chose the clothes they wore, the pose, the environment….in fact, for me, THE ENVIRONMENT is one of the most important aspects of this essay: it wasn’t shot in a studio, or the artist’s loft or all that other shit, but was chosen environmentally in a place the women chose (their homes, neighborhoods, etc), in other words, they’re staring back at US, challenging us and our ideas and challenging the fact (since this is about ‘modeling’, and models of color) that the women are in the drivers seat here….again, this comes (my reading) from understanding or being familiar with brian’s work in it’s entirety (or what i know of it) as well as the intelligence and sensitivity that he has shown previously…and he does play with this level of discomfort, veiwer discomfort as a way to challenge us and by doing that challenging our own norms…that why i thought of both Public Enemy and West….

    I see these women as strong, because they are showing us what they want, not one of them looks sad or looks defeated or looks weak or looks out of control…in fact, i think brian has given them the opportunity to show us what the fashion world and what most of us don’t see: a picture of women who are unapologetically THEMSELVES…not models/mannequins…that’s the irony….for sure, for sure, i understand the trecherous ground with playing with depicting this group of women as one identity: bodies, sex, lounging around, without reference to other aspects of women (artistic, educated, professional, hard working, parents/siblings/community members-builders/politicians, artists/socialworkers/doctors/writers/scientists/policeofficers etc etc etc) but this essay for me, mines that very uncomfortable ground which forces us to confront our own expectations of what a portrait, of what a portrait of an african american is supposed to look and ACT like….like i said, the worst thing (historically) about that idea is that to tell the african american community (or individuals) how to act, what to say/do etc….and i also hear you on the reaction who would be infuriated too, but i think that is the complexity that lay in this essay….again, i think much of this will be offset by the women speaking here too…

    and lastly :)) (promise), there IS humor here too, not immediately apparent…but i gotta say (without sounding like another white guy making a fucking sterotypic comment) that a great number of the women in my life from the community (friends, partners, colleagues, my childhood through adulthood in and away from nyc) have some of the best senses of humour about themselves and their bodies and their life and their sexuality and their relationship to the outside world i’ve ever known….and i see that here too….but all my feelings are zip compared with what these women felt and the reason they were a part of this project….

    again, although very different, that’s why i hoped Jodi’s essay would add another level of context :))

    cant wait Michael until we share a drink when i’m down to the city :))

    DAVID :))))….well, one of the best things about the essay to me is not only how different these ‘models’ are from the industry but that they were shot in their own environments and that we HEAR them in those quotes…and aren’t models usually mute ;))))))))))))


  • Topic for discussion: basic human dignity and the photographer’s role in safeguarding it.

  • This means that there is a communication problem with what is presented …… just like me using 8 inch laptops to write with not the ideal vehicle of communication due to the smaller keyboard

  • Windup:

    true, though i think that’s more a glib remark in it’s criticism of the work. Each of us, essentially, needs to be our brothers keeper in all walks of life, in safeguarding human dignity and rarely rarely do, regardless of walk of life. Photo world is no less immune from the basic selfishness of most behavior and as i mentioned in my first comment MOST photographers simply exploit. no, we all willing exploit, we all use others as a means for something: a story, an idea, promotion of ourselves/careers, aspirations, etc. The truth is that most photographers never involve the subject nor really worry that much about them: from journalists to artists, from commercial photographers to street shooters: just shoot shoot shoot, make the pictures. period.

    as i have written before many times and try to make it a truth in both my own practice (i no longer photograph people that i dont have some personal relationship with or shoot people who don’t have a knowledge or relationship to the work i do) and my life to care and to act well, but like everyone else, we fail, we’re human.

    the question of whether or not these women’s dignity was both exploited and scoured is a matter of your perspective. Same was sad about Jodi’s work as well, by many including in S.Africa. The truth is that, to me, dignity comes from a simple place: honesty, openness, awareness and the intent that a relationship is built upon truthfulness and intent. I trust Brian, because i know his work (i dont know him personally) and i trust his words: i must, for human dignity’s sake. I also expect (and if you’ve do some digging and find that he’s also photographed women who are friends and women who are artists and tatoo artists and musicians etc and who have spoken about their relationship to the series or another b/w series similar and their empowerment from it, it shifts the perspective of what does dignity mean) that the women will support that they were comfortable with and feel this is what they wanted to reveal to the viewers about one aspect of themselves, one aspiration and their own physical and emotional presence.

    It gets very close to patronizing when you suggest that someone else is exploiting or are removing a subject’s dignity because of a photograph… about the next time you think ill of a person…but don’t tell them directly?…..same….

    the truth is that dignity must rest, above all, on the attempt to love and support and do no harm…to connect…dignity is not based on another’s perception of what is right or wrong, but is what that person needs, so that they are done no harm, that they are not exploited and hurt, that they are used….

    dignity is about self-empowerment and also the realization that we are all connected to one another and that we all suffer and that we must abide one another….abide one another and care…

    to me, brian has done and does all this…

    all the best

  • i let the models know, so it’s up to them. full disclosure: one model wanted her picture taken down after seeing the project. so it’s has been removed.


    i took a look at the link you posted for Lauren Greenfield…

    Lauren is one of my favorite people in the biz…she assisted me when she was just getting started, her books Fast Forward and Girl Power broke new ground, her HBO specials have been terrific, she is probably the best example of a working wife and mother around, and she presented me last year the Lucie Award….yet sticking to my guns for honest critique, i found the multi-media technique for Fashion Show quite annoying and the content bereft….multi-media used for its own sake , simply a fashion show from A to Z with nothing revealing at all, and certainly not the best example of her usually fine seeing….seemed totally pointless……when i see Lauren Greenfield and Fashion Show as the header i thought i was going to see a statement, an expression, an irony, a point of view, a twist, a revelation… just something with some weight, rather than the routine sequence of any fashion show

    maybe she simply was hired to this as an assignment for the show… show, one coverage…that is absolutely what it looks like….no problem….a commission to help pay college tuition……..but if so, why was it presented as a body of work at a photo fest?

    now, back to Brian Shumway…

    cheers, david

  • I just reviewed the essay again and read the models/women’s statements as well this time. Again I think the essay is photographed well, and the project is a good one, but I guess I just wonder why pretty much every woman besides maybe three, all chose to be either nude or wear something they thought was sexy and revealing.

    Brian stated that the “women photographed are a cross-section of real people who want to do every kind of modeling, from runway, high-end fashion, print or commercial work to eye-candy and artistic nudes”

    I guess I think the essay would be more successful if you had more variation in the woman you chose because to me its a bit heavy on the eye-candy and artistic nudes, and so that is all I see.

  • Brian

    That is too bad, her photograph, and comment, was one of the most powerful and interesting of this project. I hope some of the women pictured here will comment.

    Bob Black
    Thankyou, once again for your amazing insight and wonderful way with words. I have been thinking of this essay all day, and the fact that these photographs were a collaberation was paramount in my mind.

  • I like the images. I like that the women are chasing their improbable dreams. Love the colors. I find it interesting that there seems to be a complete disconnect between what I visualize a high fashion model to be, and what these women are. Is that a challenge to how I see what a model should look like? Is it a challenge to the fashion world to re-imagine what a model should look like? Is it a disconnect between how these women see themselves and how the fashion world sees them?

    Brian – What are your thoughts about asking the women to come in what THEY would wear to a photo shoot casting call instead of you discussing with them what to bring? Do you see the outfits changing any?

    I am also torn with the idea that this could be viewed as misery tourism. It’s a fine line that I sometimes have troubles distinguishing – the separation of discovering who people are and propping them up to be ridiculed. I don’t think you’ve crossed it, but you have to be careful.

    You certainly have me thinking, which is always a good sign. Cheers.

  • I can’t ignore the fact that women are so sexy… What I appreciate about this essay is the diversity of the woman and there own imaginings of what they may expect of us to expect. Explicit sexuality. So some are anorexic, some volumptuous, some glam, some streetwise. All seem to be using this sexuality, some in a sluty way, others in a evocative way. Its a fact of life, we’re sexual creatures, like all the other creatures on this wonderful planet. Hard to ignore.

  • I watched the essay again, and it is sad the one model asked for her image to be removed. That was a beautiful woman and a lovely shot.

  • Sorry to be posting multiple times here. I wanted to add that if my sentiments were expressed earlier (probably by Bob with his great insights), I don’t mean to pile on.

  • one model wanted her picture taken down after seeing the project. so it’s has been removed………………doesn’t suprise me

  • And what’s wrong with being sexy? Starting to come off as a bunch of old artsy white guys telling black women what they should or shouldn’t be. I think Brian presented them very much as they wanted to be – are – and I wouldn’t doubt that for most of them these are probably some of the best/better pictures ever taken of them – and that they didn’t have to pay for.

    Yes, there’s a sadness in here, and that’s what makes it so complex, so real, and maybe even threatening to some. The world’s a big, sloppy, complex place folks. This isn’t ivory tower stuff for the old boys (mmm, seen any good refugee camps pics lately old boy), nor is it necessarily street, nor commercial, but an interesting mix of all three. They are obviously not out of their comfort zone (or even neighborhood/apartment building) and their comfort/ease in front of the camera is refreshing, like I said, maybe even a bit threatening. Their style is different from most, that’s for sure, but I see it everyday in my neighborhood, so it’s for real.

    I once did a Craig’s list casting call for a shoot for an outdoor clothing company – in Oct in Seattle. Now I wasn’t asking for glamourous at all (more like how do you look in a raincoat), but some of the models that responded and the pictures they used were strange indeed (umm borderline soft porn). Makes these look tame, and there was no art in sight.

    That’s the nature of things. Big bad world out there, and bottom line is these women are beautiful (like everyone is ultimately beautiful – isn’t that why we photograph?) and Brian made them look timeless and important. Thank you.

  • John G
    I don’t see people being used. I don’t see faux fashion pix. I see pretty honest, revealing portraiture, with the participation of the subjects.

    “potatoeshop” or not, people can be pictured in a flattering or un-flattering way, depending on one’s skill level, and intent.

    In this case, the subjects are depicted in a neutral way. The expectations of the models, and the intent of the photographer perhaps were not completely in synch here. When combined with the comments from the women, this piece challenges me and my pre-conceptions about aspiring models, and, I hope, gives these women some perhaps un-expected insights as well.

  • Imants,

    It was the full nude in the fur coat in the snow. Amazing picture but I can understand the model’s reticence in that case, and probably not pulled due to the intent/philosophy behind the piece. And frankly, as good of a photo as it is, it was probably the one that most pulled me out of the flow and intent of the essay as a whole.


  • Yes I know which image it was that is why I stated I wasn’t surprised ………… not a shot that one would like to show to an agency when trying to kickstart a modelling career…………… too easy to be typecast It also reaffirms my thoughts about the weak photographer/ model relationship which also come across in the images

  • IMANTS..

    i am not so sure the elimination of that picture suggests weak photographer/model relationship as it suggests “having second thoughts” for any number of reasons….she quickly approved another equally potentially provocative picture which will replace the one removed tonight…a weak relationship would most likely have manifested in her not wanting to be published at all…remember please, Brian did not sneak these pictures…every woman knew exactly what she was doing, advertised herself for this type of shoot in a public format, chose the clothes and pose, signed a model release etc etc…now whether or not this is a “calendar shoot” or fit for consumption by the general public outside the photo insider world is another story…for sure it will continue to be controversial…as always, thank you for your insights…

    cheers, david

  • One would have thought an agreement would have been reached before the essay was presented,
    Never said anything about sneak and it is pretty much like a shoot on the cheap for an on line trading company like lingerie, dress shop etc.

  • now, i dont get where the sadness, cheap or stereotypical come from here. by who’s definition and who’s line should anyone walk on to succeed? well, maybe this is the issue.

    ive read the statements and all except one because she had no response impart ‘proud’ and ‘this is what i am’ and ‘i am beautiful’ and ‘this is what ive always wanted to do’. one mentioned being dark skinned. and the essay implies modeling when you are ‘non white’ is doubly difficult. agree that the world is tough.

    modeling IMO requires a certain look. it is about selling yourself, what you impart, how you carry yourself through, how you play the game. it is what people/general public want to buy or what the agencies think the public wants to buy. if some of the audience sees some of these pictures stereotypical, then those pictures should not become part of anyone’s portfolio because as a model, that is not how you probably want to come across. you want to be unique, you want to be fresh, attractive, you dont want your audience to turn the page, be bored, call your picture stereotypical. you want your audience to linger on your face/picture and come back to it.

    what is needed i think for these women is a chance… to know the industry, what the industry wants, what the industry calls beautiful. this is the nature of the beast. one needs the know-how. how to walk on the runway, what certain look is needed in a niche, what they/ad agents are looking for. you cannot be too different but you have to be unique somehow to stand out.

    also i agree in that nobody should be telling anyone what to do and how to look like but IMHO, this is not how it’s going to be in the fashion industry. in order to succeed in it, you need to learn the ropes and play the game.

    how can you win american idol if you cant sing?

  • Picture nr. 12 I referred to in my comment earlier is now nr. 11, her name is Revay.


    on that i agree…i was told, verbally and in writing, that an agreement with all models had been reached, releases signed etc…i think the woman simply changed her mind…that happens….maybe new boyfriend, mom freaked, any number of plausible reasons…in any case, i pulled it as a courtesy to her and to i said, she has already chosen another “pose” for publication this morning…

    June 4, 2010 at 12:35 am Edit

    Hey Bob, yea a beer sounds good. Feel free to contact me on Skype (mweb202), and that’s true for anybody. I don’t want to monopolize the other thread, probably said too much already, but I do want to address at least one of the issues you raised. Regarding the concept of “the African-American community”, yea, I agree that there is no such thing here in New York and I was actually pontificating on that very subject yesterday so was careful to phase it a bit differently in my comment to Brian. More accurately, there is a great variety of African diaspora communities here. Within the traditional African-American community there are different socio-economic divisions. Then there are diverse, divergent communities from the West Indies, Latin America, Africa and elsewhere, each with important cultural and often linguistic distinctions. But this question of representation, and that is how they phrase it, cuts across all of these cultures. I know from experience that a lot of people, particularly people from the African diaspora, would look at those photos and be upset with the “representation.” That’s why I say it’s morally questionable. To me, “morally questionable” doesn’t mean morally wrong. It means exactly what the words mean. The content raises moral questions. The answers are not presupposed. Personally, I think what Brian has shown is very important, though I get no sense from his writing that he has a very deep understanding of it. And as I said over there, if it’s not morally questionable, it’s probably not very good.

    And David, I trust this is coincidence, but this is two essays in a row on subjects I happen to be very close to and have at least some depth of knowledge about. Stop it. Please. I don’t like being so fucking hyper-critical.

    June 4, 2010 at 6:42 am Edit

    Michael :)

    will do (send u a note when i get down (hopefully late summer/early fall)…:))…

    i hear you…that’s always been the problem for me in general about description of ‘african american’ community by other folk/media etc…’cause my experience as a kid and adult in the city and even more true now living in toronto (an even more multinational/cultural city that nyc by %) is that there is no fixed idea(l) of what that means…shit, i have a friend here from jamaica whose boyfriends consistantly are e.europeans and who is constantly beat up for her choices (and she’s a french translator by profession) and another bud whose from st. lucia whose married to a japanese divorcee and one of my closest colleagues is a guy from somalia whose wife teaches in full burka….i mean, here to ‘african american’ means nothing just as the n.american ‘black’ history/culture is often at odds….i blame this all on folk who just think in terms of monolithic notions…i know alot of colored folk (and clearly white folk) who would hate what brian’s pics look like but…here that IS WHY i posted the link to Jodi’s great essay…….for me, understanding history begins with understanding personal emancipation, which comes, right or wrong, from choice of self-determination….

    and by the way, i totally agree that morality begins with understanding and empathizing with other’s sense of morality….understanding, yes…imposing, no….

    must be, for me, the middle way ;)))

    gotta fly

    bob black
    June 4, 2010 at 6:45 am Edit

    and i do know that many ‘africans’ would be angered by the pictures….but remember Africa is not monolithic either but probably the MOST diverse continent on the planet (culturally, linguistically, spiritually, tribally, historically, etc) and YET people see paint africans as 1 notion: American black culture vs. african’s perspective ;)))….what about carribean culture…s.american culture….that’s it, it’s endless….somehow, historically too, now more than ever, we gotta some how transcend those boundaries and take our approach beyond the wire… to do that, i have no clue ;)))))…that’s why i’m still stuck like everyone else :))


  • I don’t know how many people have seen this essay, by now these models probably got more audience than if they were somewhere else.
    In the end all these aspiring models (and most of women) want is to be desired, as the ones here are not professional and probably don’t have decent agents to help them, they have a variety of ways and ideas of how to pose and how to dress. Interesting to read the girls dreams and toughts about fashion.
    The way I see, this essay criticise media, fashion industry and society in general. I am not sure about the real intention of Brian, but looking at the surface, his idea is good and the pictures are well executed. So far I like it.
    Big hug.

  • jenny lynn walker

    Thank you for small mercies! The title is Black ‘Girl’ and the women you have spent time with photographing appear not to be underage. Strangely enough I didn’t notice their colour – perhaps because I’m married to a ‘black’ man myself – I noticed how you have photographed them. I have done some ‘fashion’-style photographs of my husband over the years and am happy report that not one of them looks as trashy as the majority of these.

    If you would start afresh, in the vein of last image, I would not object and who knows, you might even help the women you are photographing or even effect some change in a very sick industry.

  • Thought provoking group of images. It’s been interesting reading the comments. Is this essay just reinforcing negative stereotypes about models (self-important, tastelessly sexual, vain) and making it art by focusing on black women? Did Brian handpick the models that would seamlessly fit into this image? or is it really the culture of struggling models? I agree with Jenny that the model industry is sick.. Brian definitely acknowledges this in his artist statement.. and I wonder if images of struggling white or Asian models would have the same aesthetic. In some of these images I feel the models are empowered by their sexuality, in others I feel as though they are slaves to a culture that forces them to be sexual.

  • @jenny: so these beautiful pictures the model and i made together won’t help them one iota? is that what you’re saying? because they may be provocative? that’s very prudish and makes absolutely no sense. per your and others ‘trashy’ comment, being provocative and sexual doesn’t make one trashy. it is a matter of perception and may have more to do with the viewer’s comfort level with their own body and sexuality. and keep in mind that a lot of the models in their quotes talk about art, fantasy, becoming another character and others outright say that being a model allows them to be provocative – it allows them to express another side of themselves they cannot and/or do not in everyday life.

    also remember that all of the women have web profiles with images, in almost all cases much more provocative than these. so this is not showing them in a way in which they have done so themselves, which is perfectly fine.


    We can argue many points of view here but one thing that cannot be argued is someone else’s feelings when viewing photos or anything else for that matter. When I wrote that I found this essay very very sad, that referred to my feelings upon viewing it, not to any stereotyping or disrespect to the women pictured or disapproval of the way Brian photographed them.

    I went on to say this was MY issue, not theirs, and that it was an issue I have with cultures that overvalue how women look rather than who they are at their core. By the way, my concerns have nothing to do with the race or ethnicity of the women pictured here. I felt just as sad when I saw the emaciated-looking white women models pictured in Lauren Greenfield’s Fashion Show. For me it’s all about women being valued no matter how they look, dress or present themselves. It comes from an unapologetic feminist perspective.


  • Brian,

    Of course there is nothing wrong with being sexual/sexy and provacative, just need to say though there is a big difference between sexy, aristic nude, provacative, and porn, trashy, raunchy, exploitive, etc., I am not referring to your work or project but only to your comments about what is sexy and what is trashy and what is prudish….. I really do like your work.

  • jenny lynn walker

    2, 5, 6, 10, 11 are ok. would have liked 7 if you’d asked her to keep her legs together. 22 also ok. my favourite is 15 but for ‘fashion/nude’ work and for HER benefit, i would have done some photoshop touch-up on her breasts.

    men make women into sex objects… and congratulations, for continuing this age-old tradition!

  • Men cannot make women into anything, if women don’t allow for it. It would be a great benefit for women if they’d take up their responibilities on this and stop blaming men being what they are: men.

  • jenny lynn walker

    By the way Brian, when will we get to see these images on your website? I would like to see them next to the series on white children. Are you using the same camera by the way? Somehow the quality of the actual images seems not to match up.

  • Jenny, click on WORKS on Brian’s website, they’re there.. spent quite some time yesterday looking through all of his pictures..

  • jenny lynn walker

    Eva: I’ve got you in a room and have a gun to your head. I tell you to strip off you clothes or I’m going to kill you. I am 6 foot 3 and ten times stronger than you. Please take up your reponsibility on this one…

  • jenny lynn walker

    Eva: I am not surprised you spent quite some time looking through his website. This sequence is excellent marketing material.

  • @jenny: this IS on my website and has been for a long time, if you had paid attention. not sure what this project being ‘next to’ ‘white children’ has anything do with anything. strange comment to make, sounds subtley racist.

    women make women into sex objects, women make men into sex objects, and men make men into sex objects. i am speaking here beyond photography. any time you say/think someone is attractive that person is turned into an object of desire for you. we are human, we are sexual, we are attracted to each other. get over it. if you don’t like that aspect of life, that’s fine. but do not say i am objectifying women because they like to express their own sexuality through pictures, and of course through other means as well.

  • jenny lynn walker


    please get over it but your work is just too @’mainstream’@ for my taste. i have paid way too much attention to it already. wishing you the best of luck with it.

  • Jenny, I come from a family where a small lady has ruled all ther life, over her husband, kids and other family members. No guns. But you would not mess with her. It’s not about physical strenght, most of the time, it’s about inner strenght.

    And I usually spend quite some time on every photographer’s site linked under the various essays. I want to know where the work comes from. Especially with work like this.

    It makes me angry and pisses me off (excuse the language) of what women would do just to get attention. Of how women adapt to what men want (not all, some), to what is sold to us over TV and advertisment. To make this change, stop, it does not take men, it takes women saying NO.

    Change comes from WITHIN.

    But this is not only about the work shown here, not all the women come across the same to me, some seem strong, some do not. That’s only my perception though.. or perhaps what they wanted to come through? One picture of one person tells all and nothing, a whole body of work tells much more: about the photographer mostly.

    Look at picture nr. 15, you’d like her breasts to be photoshopped, why on earth? That is how she is, and I think that’s a beautiful thing.

  • wow…
    I remember the 1st essay posted on burn.. kh…
    with women…
    and now
    with this essay……
    at times I think the text is stronger than the image…
    i like the series..
    and the issues….
    For me, the women are SUBJECTS in the photographs,
    not OBJECTS….
    BIG difference…

  • Weird the prudishness that is coming out over this. And blinders. Like I said before the work seems to straddle several genres (a good thing!) and if one thinks within boxes, then, I guess that’s how the work will be viewed, in that particular box. I don’t see it as mainstream at all, nor is it, thankfully, straight journalism. The women are strong (and getting stronger by the minute) whether you agree or not with their chosen hopes and dreams and careers and style.

    I remember the same thing happening when BURN published a pic taken by a woman of a Thai prostitute. I s’pose nudity/sexuality is only valid when it’s arty self portraits taken by wispy college girls… sad.


    you of course do not need to apologize for anything…you personify the very qualities of womanhood you so value, not by writing about it, but by living it…..and your view is shared by many way outside your feminist viewpoint..

    our Magnum office is one floor down from a casting agency in New York…we are in the very neighborhood of fashion photographers, models, agencies, the whole biz…every time i go into our office i see women, and men as well, looking at themselves in the reflection of the elevator door, fixing their hair,lipstick,and trying to get an “attitude” before presenting themselves , along with dozens of other hopefuls, to someone who will “choose” perhaps one of them…they are mostly nervous, scared, and trying to pretend they have it all together…after all they are usually 15-19 and they have to lie down their age for they know that anything over 21 is going to give them a rejection..they have all learned how to vomit at will to keep their weight down..without makeup many look seriously ill….

    in the pictures that will be taken of them or the commercials they will star in, they will look like the epitome of health, happiness, and desire….in fact, they are pictured to sell something…jewelry, clothes, cars, vacations, whatever…our commercial culture has created this environment and we are all to blame…the department stores, fashion magazines etc all know they make more money from their customers if their products are “properly displayed”…they can prove it…marketers know everything…so they will keep doing it…in the movies the same…there are few Meryl Streep alikes up on that screen…

    just as none of us are innocent in the energy depletion department, few of us are innocent in this either..even the magazines marketed for folks over 55 have models on the cover…a huge business…so if you bought one, you have contributed to what the marketeers know….even vacation tours designed for men and women who have been married for 30 plus years will always be sold with twentysomethings on the brochure…it has been humankind nature for centuries to value the young and the beautiful…are Gaugin and Botticelli any less guilty than Penn or Avedon or Testino? or are any of them guilty? fashion photographers are the one group of commercial photographers who rise above all others and have more shows in the best museums than any other group…who are in the pictures on the wall? perhaps the young woman looking at herself in the elevator door reflection…

    i agree with you it is sad…or at least poignant…every little girl aspires to be like the model she has seen on tv or in a magazine or on the net..from an early age girls “model” in front of the mirror….natural i guess…only with proper parenting and the right environment and a whole lotta luck will she eventually learn the values that matter…hopefully she will learn from someone like you…

    the most beautiful woman i know is 90…never saw anyone so radiant and spectacular……nor so accepting of others of whatever race, religion, or occupation…she only cares about what is inside….that is all that matters….

    cheers, david

  • Hi Brian –

    I have been thinking this over, and how to phrase my reactions. For me, the work itself is very powerful visually, but I think more discussion on the thinking behind the project is warranted. My feedback is honest and my hope is that it will be of some benefit; on a personal level I’d rather this were a face to face talk but I understand that the open forum of burn has a different but equal merit. It is clear that you feel justified in your approach, but as a photograph is always a relationship between the photographed, the photographer and the viewer, the audience reaction holds some value… so here goes….but of course is just one viewer’s reaction. Sorry if I repeat myself, trying to get my thoughts across in a couple of ways.

    Your wrote “The pictures give us a glimpse into how the models understand fashion, modeling and themselves as a model-in-the-making.” Yes, I am with you here…and I think the essay excels in this regard. Without a glimpse into your thinking via the statement, I would have digested the work in this vein.

    But the crux of the project seems to be the thought that “There is, however, a huge segment of aspiring models who will find attaining their dream disproportionately difficult. They are black women.” Though I of course agree with the statistics, I feel that the difficulty of achieving the dream, for the women you portray, is foremost about the particular looks and sensibilities of the specific women, irrespective of their skin color. White / asian / latina women with similar “look-feels” would not have an easy path in picking up work either.

    I do see the essay is a success as an examination of how the women perceive themselves and the industry, and of their wants. But if your objective was to create an essay about the the struggle of aspirants in a culture obsessed with fame in a time when they have been made to feel this dream is more attainable, for me this work would have been exponentially more pointed if you had included women of all races who have very little realistic chance of fulfilling their dreams. To single out the women who have the cards double stacked against them – because their look doesn’t coincide with the ideal and because of the color of their skin- does feel questionable to me. Questionable because it would have been stronger, I think, with all races of big dreamers, all with no real chance at the fantasy. THESE particular women aren’t not going to “make it” because they are black – in our society, for the most part the women you photographed are not “model material”.

    As an essay about the challenges that the color of one’s skin brings to the field of legitimate modeling (in whatever form, runway, commercial, print…) I do not think it has succeeded. For that essay I would have liked to have seen work that examines the pursuit of ‘Black Girls’ whose ‘being black’ is the primary factor; meaning an essay of images of black girls who would have a good shot at success, if only the industry were color blind.

    I also have difficulty with your statement “I hope that these portraits can in some way contribute to their pursuit.” I can’t help but feel if your goal was to help further their dreams of a shot of modeling in the mainstream, you needed to have photographed them differently, in ways that less reflect their skewed understanding of the profession. Maybe this is an innocent error on your part, that you are not familiar with the type of work one needs to show in order to move through the right/safe channels in this crap world of modeling. (Disclosure, I had a couple of years in the nyc modeling world as a naive young thing…and my aspirations were probably somewhat in line with many of these girls’, re; not high fashion.) Your work will help these girls to get work, but probably not print or runway work, nor high fashion. If the girls are content with eye-candy work, then sure…but I am confused as to why you, as a brother, father, man etc. would want to use your creative talents to further that narrow objective when you could have made images of these same girls that would have helped them in the larger, though also humble, scope of working in modeling. But that body of work – straight modeling shots – would not be rich in the same way as is your series, the one that looks at themselves and the dream from the girls’ understanding.

    What you did – show us this specific group of individual’s thinking through your creative vision – was rather successful. Whether or not I think it was opportunistic to use this particular group of women is beside the point. But as a viewer I have no greater understanding of the challenges faced by black woman in the modeling world. I have an understanding of the ‘gap between intention and effect’ in this hand picked group of aspirants. And maybe this is enough -that is up to you. If it is enough, I think the essay can be furthered and made more complete by the addition of women of different races with the same likelihood of success. If it isn’t, I’d love to see a series from you about ‘Black Girls’ who are struggling to make it in discriminatory world – and who just might.

  • my intent was to show who they are (hence a portrait approach), not what their day to day struggle may be trying to make it in the world of modeling. that would be more of a straightforward journalistic endeavor, which was not my interest here.

    i think it would have diluted the project immensely if i had included other races. i thought about that actually, and it would have been too unfocused. and would have been far too difficult to include every race, and then it brought up questions of which races to include and not to include, why these races and not that one, etc.

    i have posted a re-edit on my website, with three new images.

  • As Gordon L has requested, a model has finally chosen to comment.

    After reading the essay and viewing the pictures chosen to be a part of this project, I believe the Brian has succeeded in sharing his view of what he believes may be a problem in the modeling industry or maybe even a problem with the models. However, I do feel that the pictures may not portray the model in her style or even what she views as fashion. Instead, I believe that the pictures are more of a lifestyle kind of photography. I don’t feel that they were a reflection of the model, but were instead, the model shooting in another beautiful style of photography; one that Brian has mastered and enjoys.

    I don’t know if it is possible that any one picture that can reflect exactly how any person sees him/herself, especially when they are shooting a particular style and being captured based on the vision of another. The closest one can get to capturing such a picture is most likely a self portrait, and even then it would take both luck and a lot of revision and contemplation.

    @ Brian
    I love your work and I love how this project was put together….very clever. I shot with you because your style was unique and one that I had never experienced.

    Also, nudity or sexuality, as you all know, captured in an image does not not mean it is porn. In Brian’s project I don’t see anything that reminds me of pornography even with the raw and gritty feel of some of the images.

    Finally, if anyone was wondering which model was speaking, I’m Twila Jeann.
    @ david alan harvey There was no change in my life from the time I took the pictures to now that made me want to change my photo. If anything, it was a slight problem in communication.

  • but one thing that cannot be argued is someone else’s feelings when viewing photos or anything else for that matter.
    Why shouldn’t one’s feelings be challenged. I have found myself (on this essay itselfZ), changing my own on many photos, and of course, in life, for a lot of things.

    Nothing has to stay the same, Patricia, so yes, i think it’s ok, not to argue, dismiss, or deny, but to wonder at, and possibly challenge someone on, what it is they feel. It’s of course your prerogative not to add anymore to what you wrote, as well.

    I have no doubt you agree with that.

  • Brian, anybody, correct me if I’m wrong, but i think a lot of the commenters may be confusing high fashion with what these women may realistically hope to achieve. Most modeling opportunities lie outside of high fashion. I suspect it’s wrong to categorically state that these women’s looks preclude them from getting work. They are all beatiful in their own way and there may well be someone looking for just that look.

  • hey – right, I get that your “intent was to show who they are” and you did that so well – I wouldn’t have wanted or expected a different approach, that wasn’t what I was suggesting. My questions lie more in the “they” in your sentence. To my thinking, the poignant “they” are the women and girls who face these struggles and are caught up in the “glamour of strutting along the runway with cameras flashing, being a spokesmodel for the latest line of make-up, or being plastered on billboards in Times Square.” And that “they” goes way way wider than the black sector. So I am wondering why did you choose to focus on black girls, when the struggle itself – at this level of talent – doesn’t choose. It’s an interesting look at one sector of the struggle, but I don’t think you can say, again, at this level – that these girls are at any added disadvantage because they are black. The discrimination that black women face in the legitimate modeling world is real, but is unlikely to affect the sector of hopefuls you are showing. So how could it dilute your story to “show who they are” in a broader racial sense, if the blackness of the featured girls isn’t the reason they won’t make it in the mainstream industry? For me your piece is about hopefuls without much of a chance, and not about black girls. And you chose to picture hopefuls who are black. And I’m not clear on why… You don’t owe me an answer, but I think its a thought worth investigating privately which might add even more to your expression and communication of your gift.

    Michael – Brian was the one who wrote “runway with cameras flashing, being a spokesmodel for the latest line of make-up, or being plastered on billboards in Times Square’ and “high-end fashion, print or commercial work to eye-candy and artistic nudes.” Out of all those examples, in my experience, only a very creative agent is going to most of book these girls for anything more than eye candy (car show) or nudes, given their presentation. That is not to say that they aren’t beautiful.

  • Trashy… Jenny, are you that prude?

    Too much moral crap heaped on these young women. Some might have to do with the fact that nudity is not seen the same in US or Europe, at least Northern Europe. I stand to be corrected, so are there any european burnians seeing “something wrong” in these pictures (that means, as women a bit undressed?

    I am drawing parallels with LIVING PROOF, as to the reactions. I do not remember anyone feeling sad or moralistic then. I know it was shot entirely differently, but I also think that the reactions of “sadness” are not just about what the pictures shwo, but what everyone sees thru them, or or knows, of the social relaiaties of “being black”, which is prsent in LIVING PROOF.

    LIVING PROOF, one can argue (devils advocate here), had to be sadder (“behind the pictures”), since who knows how many of these kids and men in the book have been shot since shooting.

    What gives?….

  • Yes Erica, good point(s) and excellent question.

  • Aren’t we making too much, also, of these ladies wanting to be models. isn’t it more like boys in wanting to play in a band and be rock stars?

    I know that here, in SF, many of buddy amateur photographers have no problem doing “model shoots”, with young women. The Photographers refine their skills, the girls get free “portfolio” shots, but obviously, hardly one will become a professional model (just on height, they’re off by a few inches).

  • Brian, Images 10 and 21 from the wider edit on your website are f’ing fantastic.

  • jenny lynn walker

    I once did a fashion shoot with a young woman from Russia who had been brought to London to work at an agency. I didn’t realise how badly models are treated until the end of the few hours we spent together when she said to me that in the years she had been working ‘in the business’ nobody had treated her with such kindness and been so respectful and considerate. I will not forget her and I hope she will remember me too. I have no idea how far she would have gone – or had gone – to get to where she was. I did not ask her. And I also did not ask her how she wanted to look or what she wanted to do. I had her running down a hill in the sunshine, fully clothed, and that spirit of hers was stunningly beautiful! : )

    I too would like to see these women photographed alongside a range of women struggling to make it in the fashion world – probably better than my suggestion which was misunderstood by the author. I feel that to separate them into a category of their own based on their colour is offensive – no matter the justification – because the effect is to reinforce stereotypes and there are of course women struggling to make it as models across all colours and cultures.

    To me, it is indeed very sad how women ‘want’ or ‘allow’ themselves to be portrayed – and it is entirely up to those who photograph them, this ‘how they are portrayed’. There are a million different ways to photograph a woman. Praying for more respectful visions of women in the future…

  • BRIAN,

    The more I look at these I think they are fucking fantastic. Yeah, like EMCD said the politics behind in the essay are maybe a bit much (or just not wholly reflected in the photographs) but the ability to use amateur models and make work just as edgy if not more so than Italian Vogue for probably their lunch budget is a great feat.

    As a bonus by photographing many of them in or around their apts we get small insights into their personality – such as artfully leaving messy clothes on the bed. Great compositions and that’s what makes any photo sing imo. I’m pretty sure these women are happy to have your photographs. Yes, some are less than “perfect” and in the hands of a clumsy photograph might not come off so good. But here you really make them shine. Whether modeling is good career choice, yada, yada, is a personal matter. Many things out there that make us feel good (taking beautiful pictures of beautiful women perhaps:))))) so who’s got the right to judge on the validity of somebody else’s dreams and aspirations? Why is their a considered norm

    Actually the more I look at these photos the less sadness I feel and I begin to revel in their yummy edginess and collaboration. Very ID or Italian Vogue with truly “real” people. Helmut Newton goes to the ‘hood perhaps:))))

    Will check out your other work.


  • jenny would you be saying the same thing about race if this were a group of all white women? i dare say not. because white is the norm; white is neutral; white is ‘raceless’, right? so if we mention race and do something related to a race other than white then it becomes suspect? why is that? of course we all know that women of all races want to be models. i chose this one to focus on. if you read my statement it’s clear why. if you want to portray women differently, then by all means PLEASE do and you can feel better about presenting women in a non-‘trashy’ way.

    herve thank you sir. great insightful comments.

    brian thanks you!

  • charles thanks so much. never thought of them as being ID/Vogue level but i appreciate the compliments! funny how fashion prides itself on being edgy and avante garde, but i’m sure this is way too much. and i did it on less than half their lunch budget!

  • Why not, if you wish, but I am at loss why “Africa”, “africans” should be drawn in , when young black american women are in an essay. Never mind the skin color, Apples and oranges.

    That said, anyone can have an opinion on these young women, as it relates to their own identities, but I will give as much credence to what one of you has to say, as to what someone from the “african disapora”.

    aside: Jenny, allow me: come off the PC train. There is nothing disrespectful in that essay or the photographying from Brian. BTW, you must hate Akaky… ;-)

  • “Helmut Newton goes to the ‘hood perhaps:))))”\



  • I am sure some of you are secretly laughing at the irony behind our “would be but can’t, on the face of it” comments on their aspirations.

    I mean, how many here would love to become plain career photographers, but are a bit too hopeful, and will NOT make it. Then, yes, I have to ask: is it sad? :-)))))

  • SORRY AKAKY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! :-)

    I meant to Jenny: you must hate ARAKI.

  • As far as I know, it seems clear that these images were taken with the subject’s consent and with full disclosure. They agreed to this…it was their choice. To me, objectification comes without consent – if you take that choice away from a person. No matter how noble our intentions are, we cannot speak for others if they are speaking for themselves, this takes away their choice and reduces them to objects. If the women in these photos gave their informed consent, then all others who criticizes that decision can sod off for they’re the ones being morally objectionable.

    Brian, when I first saw these images, your final statement regarding how you hope that these images would help these aspiring models in their pursuits seems incongruous with some of these images, but I had it in my mind that modeling was of the kind I normally associate with…high fashion glamour shots…runway…etc, which is not the case here after rereading your text. In that context, these images seem reasonable. I do feel that you’re doing something more here than what you are saying. I just feel as if I’m missing something that needs to be further explored/explained/clarified.

  • “Photography is an addiction.” Johanie, 24, aspiring model

    Black Photographer is a portrait series on young black people in the New York City area who aspire to be photographers.

    Even as children, many people dream of becoming a photographer. The glamour of strutting through a war zone with cameras flashing, being a spokesperson for the latest human rights cause, or having your work plastered on billboards in Times Square can be too enticing to ignore. Awards like World Press, can shoot a photographer to stardom almost instantly, and easy accessibility to professional photographers through agencies like VII (and their workshops) make this dream seem more realistic and attainable than ever before. Indeed, everyday countless photographers around the United States and the world are actively pursuing this dream.

    There is, however, a huge segment of aspiring photographers who will find attaining their dream disproportionately difficult. They are black photographers. We all realize, at least in some way, that the mainstream photography world is white-washed, especially at the high end. This is in no way representative of New York City’s, the United States’, or the world’s population. On the ground level, where photographers are just starting to put a portfolio together, the reality is quite different. In doing this project, I used a photography forum to contact photographers. I found that, despite so few black professionals, thousands of young black photographers (just within 50 miles of my NYC zip code) are striving to attain their dream, or at least their interpretation of it.

    Despite the odds and a stark downturn in the photography, these aspiring photographers have high hopes and remain steadfast. They work hard, often juggling school, work, relationships, and family (some are even mothers) to find a few hours a week to squeeze in a shoot, or perhaps two if they’re lucky. Using an approach that is part anthropology and part fantasy, the photographers I shot are a cross-section of real people who want to do every kind of photography, from reportage, high-end fashion, print or commercial work to eye-candy and artistic nudes. Their interests are varied, as are their styles, but this one dream ties them all together. Behind that dream are fundamental human issues that touch upon identity, elitiism, sexuality, race, and the drive to be recognized in a culture obsessed with fame and celebrity. I hope that these portraits can in some way contribute to their pursuit.

  • A couple of years back I photographed a young black basketball player, star of a local highschool documentary, for INTERVIEW magazine. I was pissed because when I showed up on the shoot because the magazine had spent probably three times more than my fee fedexing overnight big boxes of clothes. She turned up looking absolutely dynamite and sexy in her street clothes and totally her. I knew she would and had told the mag that but advertisers had to be pleased. The clothes we were forced to put her in made her uncomfortable – mostly because they just weren’t her (she’s all 6’1″ and curvy muscles) and actually made her look frumpier (we’re talking DNKY, Gaultier, etc etc). Not a fun way to shoot a portrait, esp an “editorial” one.

    Anyway, what I appreciate is these woman look really comfortable being sexy in what they chose. And yes definitely different views of sexuality between races, classes, and all stripes of people. Just because one doesn’t like it in no way means it’s wrong. It’s humanity.

  • Erica:

    I also think that had Brian (or this story) been about the difficulties of all girls and women who aspire to be models realizing their dream because of size, background, color, belief, etc, THAT essay would be something entirely different…adding that element would indeed have diluted THIS tact. Notice that Jodi magnificent work ‘real beauty’ DOES NOT depict the real beauty of ALL S.Africans, or all Africans….S.Africa is a multicultural nation that includes south asians, e.asians, s.e. asians, europeans, s.africans, etc…but she choose to concentrate on 2 very specific ethnicities…reasons quite obvious…and I also don’t think this essay is at all about the fashion world per se and it’s vacuous world and identity but about a particularly simple notion…there are, i think, both historically and sociologically important reasons for this and that is part of this story’s undercurrent, much as apartheid underlay the tension in Jodi’s essay….this nuance is important, again why i mentioned to Michael that i think it misses the point of this particular essay to take into consideration the ideas/beliefs of other ‘black”s identity/relationship to these women….because though it is true the statement seems much much too broad for me and too broad a sociological statement (let alone dealing with what constitutes of a ‘black’ woman or woman of color), there is some elemental truth here…and part of the power (for me) of both the pictures and the RELATIONSHIP with the models is that it’s challenging the viewer and all the questions that have surfaced, including the questions of identity, race, feminity/feminism, etc….

    somehow (maybe i am wrong), I suspect that Brian’s friendship and friendship with these women, isn’t to lead them down a path of disappointment/degradation, but turning that truth and granting them their say by confronting those notions that are aroused and entangled….

    the difficulty in this kind of treatment is that often we end up the same as what happened to Katherina and her pic of the Thai prostitute….we question not only the photographer (what is their real motive and is it moral) but end up questioning the subjects (poor, misinformed them, how)….to me, many of the comments boarder on not only the patronizing but also the old slave- master mentality…’i know what is best for them’…it’s a difficult road and again, what saves this is that it is clear that brian has this relationship and that relationship is what lay at the heart of the work and that, itself, reveals more about the nature of the essay:

    understandably, i cant help but feel much of the discomfort that this work raises has to deal with the need to define, to be seen in a particular way and to be understood as enlightened and free: spiritually, morally, historically free…..

    if anything, this work is world’s better than all that shit in the fashion magazines, which ultimately is about sell, sell, sell…a woman as vehicle to not only profit but also to enhance the wealth of predominantly white men….here, to me at least, it is about these women and their voices and at least one part of them: they aint selling anything except themselves…and that aint any different from anything that any of else do, when in truth, we sell ourselves worse, because we couch it in grandiose language of art, or professionalism, or career, or academic value….what i see here are these women, not the totality of them, not who they are, but surely one part, only because i see their home, their environment, i see at least that this is how they wanted to present themselves to us….and that’s more straightforward honest than most of what we do daily, in each of our lives…:))

    would i love it if we all understood that we’re beautiful because we are made of carbon and will disappear into spaces of carbon too, made of ash and will become ash, radiant as the sound of a voice, lost as the vapor, yea…but for me, in truth, as long as one undestands, in the moment, that all we have is that, of this moment, to recongize that beauty, to recognize that we are all elegant magnificent tapestries of life, that would be brilliant…and to me that begins with the recongition of the self and maybe i am wrong, but what i see here are women strong enough to recognize why they are THE important tapestry of life….

    hope that makes sense…

    sending big hugs


    p.s. totally with charles…

  • and when i mean that what i see here are women strong enough to recongize why they are THE important tepestry of life, i dont mean because we see their skin or their smiles or their bodies…but they are important because we hear THEM…we hear them by being told that THEY CHOOSE how they wanted to be photographed, and WHY…this is not, for me at that point, about what they look like (do we really ever care about what people look like, or really pay attention to what models look like??), what we hope to get is to get a glimpse of someone in their magnificent human life, powerful or broken….and in many ways this series reminded me of your series about the home in Far Rockaway….i hope that makes sense??


  • jenny lynn walker

    Brian, if you did a series of white women in the same way and entitled it ‘White Girl’, believe me, I would respond in exactly the same way. Can you not see that you are stereotyping here by only photographing aspiring black models and calling the sequence ‘Black Girl’? Of course you can.

    I wonder what the women would have chosen to wear and what poses they would have taken, if I had photographed them? These women are mostly in their early 20s and have a pretty good idea of what is/was EXPECTED OF THEM. I think Bob said it: ‘a woman as vehicle to not only profit but also to enhance the wealth of predominantly white men’ or what needs to be done to get into the magazines???

    I was just thinking how I’d like to give a camera to each of the women in these photographs and have them take images of 22 ‘white boy fashion photographers’ in their underwear! Or perhaps just 22 images of Brian pouting into the camera, would you be up for that Brian?

  • jenny you are really hung up on this stereotyping issue. by your logic, the essay is stereotyping because it is pictures of aspiring black models with the title ‘Black Girl’. furthermore, if i had focused on any one race, even white women, i would be doing the same thing. therefore, you’re saying a project like this should never be done because by definition it is stereotyping? interesting logic, and apparently you have no qualms about restricting people’s freedom of expression, where it’s mine or the models’, in the name of what you perceive to be stereotyping and trashiness. very closed-minded.

    you are also really hung up on a couple of scantily clad images in the essay, which says much more about where your focus is. because if you were at all sensitive you would realize there is much more going on in these pictures.

    yes by all means let them shoot white boys in their underwear, but i’m afraid that’s been done too.

  • jenny lynn walker

    Even better, get the women together and have them photograph themselves over a two-week period. I bet they’d come up with amazing images of each other that would show their characters and full personalities. Imagine a piece akin to Emily Shiffer’s ‘Cheyenne River’ except with these amazing women. Boy I’d love to see that on Burn!

  • well jenny looks like you found yourself a project then. go for it.

  • First off, I like the images a lot, I want to make sure that’s clear. I don’t feel like they’re exploitive in the least.

    But I feel that the images don’t really prove the thesis to me. The issue you say you’re addressing is that the odds are more against black women becoming fashion models, but I think the bigger stumbling block for most of these women is just their appearance. They’re just not high fashion material.

    I started shooting with models a few months ago for a fine art project I’m doing with a Holga, and I network with models constantly. Based on these images I’d say that there are few of these women I’d want in my portfolio.

    For a new model, even building a portfolio can be challenging. The model/photographer relationship is an interesting one — sometimes models pay photographers, sometimes photographers pay models, or sometimes neither pays (what’s referred to as “trade”). It’s all based on who needs who most.

    If a model doesn’t have a look that makes quality photographers want to work with them, then they’re probably going to end up with a portfolio full of images from someone who doesn’t know what they’re doing. I see those every day: flat lighting, bad post, sometimes they’re not even white balanced. And it’s like a self-fulfilling prophecy. Other photographers who see those poor quality images are less likely to work with that model unless the model is going to pay them.

    If you showed me a bunch of stunning black models who hadn’t become successful, then I’d be more swayed by the race angle. I don’t doubt at all that it exists, and I’m sure it is an extra stumbling block for these models. But it’s not the primary reason they’re not likely to be successful, to me.

  • jenny lynn walker

    Hate Akaky? Why? What’s that about?

  • Topic for discussion: fellow feeling versus relativism. (Go for it, Bob.)

  • @Windup. you might find this incredibly hard to believe, but, not ALL black people live in the hood.

    GET A CLUE!!!!

  • Jenny:

    I just want to clarify what i wrote, since it’s been taken a bit out of context. I was actually suggesting exactly why i find this essay ‘better’ and much more important than most of the ‘fashion’ shots of women in magazines/art galleries/websites etc…it is for a simple thing: there is honesty here. I mean, we are FOCUSED on the WOMEN in this essay…and whether that focus is positive or negative (and that interpretation is from which where all the arguments have come) is a particularly personal reference and feeling….but make no mistake about it, this essay is very very different in both its concept and, most importantly, it’s result….Fashion shoots use women (and men) to promote a product or service or idea of some kind (and we all, or most of us, accept that). shit, look at films, or music industry or even (it’s it’s paradoxical but logical conclusion) business: anyone read the story in the Village Voice this week about the women who was deemed ‘too beautiful’ to be a banker??–30014985/

    See, what I am suggesting is that people (particularly women) are used but there is rarely rarely an honest recognition of this or a conduit to which this can be fought. We focus on models’ ‘beauty’ but what beauty is that??… is inelastic: for the girls are not people there, but graphic apperature designed to sell something…merely a vehicle to enhance the wealth of a small percent of people on the planet, predominantly white men, period. Ditto Deborahlee: she’s too ‘hot’ to properly see Citibank?….it’s an absurdist circle and we all buy into this….Appearance defines but appearance is also used in hypocritical ways….BUT, this essay IS DIFFERENT…because the Women are appropriating that idea: they have chosen to be photographed AND what they are ‘selling’ is themselves, their power, their appearance, their choices, their aspirations, in other words they are not selling-out, but selling-in (christ, i sound like a fucking french deconstructionist)….in other words, these women are being honest and Brian is being honest, period….i just ask again, is there essay different from jodi’s, elementarily?…yes, they have too orientations and too conceptually different beginnings and frameworks, but at the center is a basic question that is the same….and now that it is raised, i AM WILLING to bring the white elephant into the room (or, if i were Banksy, a pink elephant: go see his new flick), a pink elephant: and that is this:

    would the essay elicit so much fueled rage and frustration if the essay had been conceived, shot and published by one of these women…i know that some of the women Brian’s shot are artists, would we villify her as much?….i dont think so…and that itself IS an interesting question…

    but keep in mind i was suggesting that I think this work is much more honest in both is photographic and conceptual approach than a good major9ity of the fashion and/or portraiture i see….and as I wrote to Erica, for that, some of the little things about the statement didnt trouble me as much….

    Windup :)…i gotta say that i’ve always been a fan of your succinct posts, even when we disagree :)) …they’ve been good for the soul…and I hope you never feel anything i wrote in my lamentably grandiose and overlong rants are personal :))….

    i think if i dipped into that one, this would be come too much bob black (too many comments from me already), so i’ll bow out on that….but at a later date, would love too…and buy you a drink too…

    TWILA JEAN! :)))))))))))

    Thanks so much for jumping into this party!…..I am so glad that you’ve weighted in and i personally thank you for that! As more should remember, any picture aint at all about the complete truth of someone, but only an opening, a door and more importantly AN OPPORTUNITY to meet and learn….thank you for that!





    Can we get Ruckus and Uptown to drop in a comment? :))))


  • BOB..

    cool idea….i will give them a call…by the way , i think you have a good handle on this one…

  • dAvid :))

    that would be great…Ruckus and Uptown were 2 of the highlights of our trip to the loft and those 2 tell it like it is….and a thoughtful great guys…..would love for these 2 to chime in :)))

    running to cook ;))


  • jenny lynn walker

    Bob: I understood exactly what you were saying, how you phrased it and felt the words explained so very succinctly the nature of the business that I was inspired to use them immediately in the context that I did. It is EXACTLY why I suggested that it would be FAR better if it had been produced BY THE WOMEN THEMSELVES – not by a man and not under this title for all the reasons stated.

    When it comes to Jodi’s essay, Jodi being a woman makes it a totally different piece but I did suggest that as a woman, she could perhaps be in the sequence herself to show solidarity! But I fully understand her rationale for not wishing to do that and personally feel exactly the same.

    DAH: I am interested to know whether you feel these women would be able to produce an essay up to the high quality expected of your magazine? Personally I feel, by looking at them, that they would come up with something simply astounding if they were given the opportunity to fully speak for themselves!

  • “men make women into sex objects”

    “i would have done some photoshop touch-up on her breasts. ”

    hypocritical much..?



    Strong work. i’m absolutely in love with #22.

  • Jenny :)

    no worries….and i hope more people look at Jodie’s work that i linked to originally, and i think that both essays are strong and interesting….and i think the women in this essay were collaborators…they didnt shoot the essay (they aren’t photographers) but i would love to see that too….but…that is different topic…the topic at hand is Brian’s essay….and i think, each viewing, it is strong and stronger…

    i’d like to pose an experiment: (i’m willing to submit too, but maybe that’ll be too obvious): have an essay shown initially that 1) does not reveal the name/gender of the photographer, see what happens…

    i still suspect that some of the difficulty that folk are having has to do with the fact this was shot by a white guy……for me, the explicit trust that these women offer the photographer and the trust that brian gave them to do whatever they wished, simply shows me the importance of this collaborative nature….

    ok, i’m beating a dead horse :)))…i’ll shut up now :))…

    waiting for Uptown & Ruckus…and again, for me, again, we must celebrate what it is others choose to celebrate about themselves, even if that rubs us uncomfortably…

    running for the weekend

    cheers andhugs y’all


  • aaahhhmmnn…….it is all pretty simple the ladies are just like the posters/”photographers” here, aspiring for something that is gone……………….. laughing

  • Not so strange we see this same stuff on facebook/deviant art and it is ok and think little of it ..put it on a photo site like this and all hell breaks loose and it becomes “real” important.

    Yea my take is that the kids facebook/deviant art just know better …….. elevation of the common to stardom is by chance not by bickering

  • JENNY..

    i am sure you know i am for putting cameras in the hands of anyone who so desires and always love to see the work of alleged “non photographers” …but, you are way more astute than i if you can tell “by looking at them (these women) that they would come up with something astounding if they were given the opportunity to fully speak for themselves”…that would be assuming that they wanted to or that they needed to in their own minds…i have no idea if either of the two conditions exist for these women…my parameters for incisive photography are wide, so i am up for anything truly interesting …we only know about these particular women because Brian showed us , but they are representative evidently of a much larger i do not know where we would draw the line..tell us…

    however, i think the obviously more interesting portrait essay for all of us here at this point , after reading the salvo between you and Brian, would be your take on black men… since i believe you said you are married to a black man…perfect…

    Brian has put his work up on the table , so your only recourse after this exchange is to put yours up….i think you said a couple of comments back, something like “how different this would have been if i had photographed these women..there reaction to me would have been very different..they knew what you (Brian) expected” (paraphrasing, but i think i am close), show us..either women or men , but with a philosophy behind approach, a reason…Brian had one, which is discounted by you, but he had one…so you would need one too….

    essays are not published on Burn to see if the readers can top it with a subsequent shoot…but again, since your charges against Brian are among the strongest moralistic charges i have ever read here, i think you really should simply show us….or, maybe just photograph your husband since you could photograph him easily and link the pictures in the next few days…or, link right now the “fashion pictures” i believe you said you already took of him that were not “trashy like these”…this was a very specific charge, so now is the time for you to be visually specific….this could really be interesting…your turn…

    cheers, david

  • Lung Liu, I googled…. If that’s your flickR account with this name of yours, superb work, man!

  • BRIAN,

    Just back from a business trip in Japan that has kept me away from your essay and one of the most interesting exchanges we have had on BURN…Thank you for triggering this exchange… While everything about the essay itself has been said already I first wanted to congratulate you on your photographic skills and the depth and variety that you are able to display. I was a huge fan of the previous work you had shown on BURN (La Chureca). Black girl shows us something different, in color and you have mastered this so well…. It is always hard to reinvent oneself, move to a different topic and you see to do this with such great ease…

    I have also very much enjoyed your new essay… I understand the discomfort some may have had and the fear that some of the pictures “could” be perceived as exploitative but, for me…this is not at all the case… clearly there is melancholy and some sadness… I think it comes from knowing that some of these girls will not meet their aspirations for a variety of reasons…being born in the wrong neighbourhood is one reason in some cases…being not exactly the stereotype woman that we see in many fashion magazines is another…being black per say (i.e color of their skin) is not necessarily the main reason why they will struggle to become models (at the end of the day we have had models like Naomi Campbell) but the deeper reason may be that for many black girls still today in the US society, being black still means too often that you are being brought up in a certain environment, neighbourhood… and unfortunately the cards are not always dealt in the same way depending on your skin color, where you live etc…. In the ghetto, without falling into an easy cliche, outside of aspiring to become a rapper, an NBA player for their dreams and few “role” models out there perpetuate this… Obviously not all the black women you showed us hin this essay are coming from there and there are many more role models these days for black kids to aspire to but still…

    The other point about the black women from your essay that can create discomfort or uneasiness is that they are very “sexy” indeed. I really do not think that there is any provocative sexuality in your pictures….I think some simply react to the fact that many of the women are very confortable in their skin, their body and their sduggested sexuality or nudity, while many white men/ women are not always that comfortable with the same things. When I was working on “Lords of the Ring” a year ago, I had the chance to become close to some black kids, young ones but also more mature 20-30 years old…I joined some parties or “outing” for which their girlfriends dressed up, danced, had fun… I kept thinking to myself that they were so different to white girls I knew. I felt a bit awkward often…combination of feeling somewhat foreign to their world and culture at times and at other times simply attracted to these women who were somewhat procative and so so confortable with their sexuality… this is the way they were in real life with their friends… Finally, the point that is important for me in Brian’s essay is that these girls have chosen the way they want to be seen, and I am sure that most are happy with their look on the pictures although imperfect… I personally thought many were actually beautiful, sexy, REAL and several of their portraits were moving… well done Brian!!! I cannot wait to see what you do next…



  • jenny lynn walker

    DAH: No David, I am not going to rise to such divisive bait. As I stated early on in this discussion, I feel that to single out a narrow group of people based on their colour is unhelpful – better show a range of people who are struggling to get a foot on the ladder or through the door. I have already produced work along these lines and some Burnians have already seen images I’ve taken of my husband as well so they can vouch for what I say – Panos for example.

    Katia: I don’t know which world you live in, but I suspect you do not have aspirations to be a model in the fashion industry. In most industries, you have to ‘play the game’ and wai at the right moments to those who run the show – or in this case, appear as near as perfect as possible hence photoshopping to perfection. Many female photographers will understand what I say – because it is largely the same in the photography business (a male dominated patriarchy).

    Just came across this which I feel is helpful here:

    ‘Patriarchy is best defined as CONTROL BY MEN. The culture of the United States and most other countries around the world is patriarchal – men have the power and control the women. Look at most world leaders to see how powerful patriarchal systems are in propagating the status quo – ie men in charge. Women are certainly as capable as men to be President of the US, but men have been in that role for so long that most believe it is impossible.

    Patriarchy is endemic. Women must stand their ground whenever and wherever possible. And the more women who are bold enough and don’t back down to men and their power, the better chance that women and men can reach to where they want to be without being oppressed, or kept under the thumb, by men. Whether an individual woman wants to conquer patriarchy coomes from a desire to be INDEPENDENT – and be defined COMPLTELY outside of the ‘context of men’.

    Duckrabbit: I love the analogy with the photography industry but wish you’d kept it to ‘women’ because we women have for so long been struggling against the shackles of male-dominated patriarchal systems – and this is what unites us around the globe – women of every colour and every standing – including ALL American women no matter their colour, and ALL African women. We did have a feminist movement way back when but it seems to have lost its path again…

  • jenny lynn walker

    There is an error in this paragraph, so I have put it here again:

    Patriarchy is endemic. Women must stand their ground whenever and wherever possible. And the more women who are bold enough and don’t back down to men and their power, the better chance that women can reach to where they want to be without being oppressed, or kept under the thumb, by men. Whether an individual woman wants to conquer patriarchy coomes from a desire to be INDEPENDENT – and be defined COMPLTELY outside of the ‘context of men’.

  • jenny lynn walker

    Eric: Hello! Another man congratulating a man on his ability to stir things up with a male-dominated photographic statement! Yes, congratulations to you all! It has been going on for more than 2 frigging centuries and women still have to fight it over, and over, and over, and over, again. What next for women on Earth? Praying for no more patriarchal systems based on ancient religious texts that have propagated belief systems that keep women down around the world.

  • Sorry to say, but not impressed, Jenny. I expected a more personal and individual response to David.
    That’s feminism 101, we’ve all recited these mantras and learnt the slogans since we took part in our first women’s lib demonstrations (that’s 1971 for moi). Can we go directly to 401, or a real in-depth opinion, please? You know, like…. Critical reasoning. ;-)

  • What i REALLY would like to know is why every single one of these models depicts only one sort of pose and that is a tarted up sex doll? Not a single one of them asked to be portrayed differently? What the hell? You’re gonna tell me 22 random black women ALL wanted to be shot like this? No, i do not believe this. I see the photographer’s agenda here all over the place. I can hear you pitching your resume and your project to them and telling them to bring alluring clothing to the shoot . Maybe those that demurred, preferring something more modest never got past the first interview. Those that took the bait already knew what was in store and went along with it because they saw an opportunity. The same as a billion hopeful starlets getting off the Greyhound in L.A. You have a way of shooting, Brian. Absolutely solid gold. But with the possible exception of the model in the snow, not one of these photos makes the slightest effort to gild the lily. Quite the opposite. Cracked paint, cheap couches, barbed wire, etc. etc. These all put the woman down, down, down. Honestly, i feel nothing but pain for these ladies who either didn’t know any better or knew better but had nothing else they could possibly lose.


  • Bob

    “there is honesty here. I mean, we are FOCUSED on the WOMEN in this essay”

    Honest? who says they’re honest, Bob? Because all the women to a one are dressed and posed like cheap pulp centerfold wannabes? Why is that more honest than a black woman posed at college or her job or a lovely home? This essay tells me that every black woman who wants to be a model looks like a slut. And that’s bullshit in any language.

    Honest would be variety, would be a fair sampling of model hopefuls, not only the ones who would bare their boobs for free.


  • Brian,
    regarding the essay – I like the work, because it is not those shiney beauty portraits you usually see when you have “models”. What your subjects say is identical the amateur models say in Europe. It is colour independant. There is a market for amateurs – model as well as photographers. They live their dream. Some pay, some receive, some do it just for the pictures.
    I like your essay because it shows the human side, because it shows them in a non-photoshopped, realistic way. Thanks.

  • Jenny,
    wow. To me that sounds really harsh and agressive what you are saying. When I read words like this, mentioning suppression since centuries – do you really feel like that?
    I had superiors of both genders in my life – and really, there are differences, but minor. (There is no better or worse)
    The company I am working for is now promoting a quota for women in executive positions. I think the world has turned a lot since the feminist movement, and they have not lost momentum, but reached a lot of minds.
    If a door does not open on pushing, one should try to pull. Ever tried it?

  • “I have already produced work along these lines and some Burnians have already seen images”

    you keep on pushing that bullshit line Jenny and produce nothing no links no nothing……… a whole lot of lame excuses, you have access to a lightstalkers slide show……… nah you are even too lame to do that.

    After all your mouthing off Jenny it seems that your real inability is the ability to produce photographic images. Pathetic

  • I like the fish.

  • This is how amateur models present themselves in a photo community.

    male and female, btw.

  • jenny lynn walker

    Herve: If you need reasoning couched in a certain language to make it sound ‘critical’, there are many on here that can provide you with that expressed in language that may appeal to you and to those who lead, and follow, the entire art industry. I really couldn’t give two hoots whether you are impressed or not and may I express this to you terms that are universally understandable: Go F**k yourself.

    KathleenF: Thanks a million.

  • the fish is an endangered species…………..

  • Katheleen,
    So I have decided to comment again after my night. One of my paying jobs is to photograph a casino nightclub in my home town of melbourne. Every single woman in the club, be they 18 or 40 was dressed in a ( only slightly) toned down version of what the girls in this essay wear. It has sadly become a universal trend that to be attractive, be it as a model or a single woman looking for love, a cartoon-ish level of sexuality is needed. Thanks Paris Hilton!
    It’s very slippery as a woman to judge the women in Brian’s essay how they are dressed just because of what dressing such a way it represents to us. Dressing to attract a male gaze is very empowering for some women, and flashing as much flesh as possible seen as proudly flaunting sexuality. And given these women had final say over the images, who are we to judge how they chose to be represented? For many women the porn aesthetic is the height of beauty. And honestly I don’t know how much that really has to do with men and how much has to do with a society that breeds insecurities in both genders.
    What I like about these shots is that these women own what they are projecting. They look confident and proud ” I am what I am and what I am needs no excuses” Most of these women are my age or younger and probably like me have been saturated with images of women who are sold to us as being in control, strong and sexy. Unfortunately what works for a woman like Lil Kim doesn’t always translate to the average person but you get my drift. Female sexuality is a strange beast, but I this case I think she can handle herself. I wonder if what’s making people object so much is that Brian took these photos, or that to a whole generation of women dressing like a streetwalker is sexy.
    And lord knows I’d rather see images like this of full and vital women, images that make me think that Terry Richardson’s porn dressed up as fashion any day.

  • jenny lynn walker

    Imants: Why should I show my work somewhere or anywhere because YOU demand it? I have not heard one woman demanding I do anything. When I share my work in a venue of my choice, you will then be as free as I have been to rip it to shreds if it offends you as much as this does me.

  • Jenny you never share others here do ………. I am sure everyone here would like to see what you have to offer but alas that is not to be………. nasty is what you have become pretty sad stuff

  • “Why is that more honest than a black woman posed at college or her job or a lovely home?”

    Maybe I’ve understood wrongly what Bob has written, wanted to say, but I don’t think it was about being MORE honest than something else, as a comparison, but about being honest, period.

    Gotta go and reread..

    Anyway, the WHY is key, here, to me.. not why Brian took these pictures or shows them (he got the opportunity, or created it, and did it), but WHY the women chose to show themselves the way they did. I might or might not agree with their reasons, but that’s not the point. Point is: it’s their choice which I respect (with no 6 feet 3 tall bad guy pointing a gun).

  • with no 6 feet 3 tall bad guy pointing a gun…….. ah but the camera out guns a gun

  • “I have not heard one woman demanding I do anything”

    Jenny, would it change anything?

    (there’s a difference, at least in Italian language, between ‘demand’ and ‘ask’)

  • I’ve given this some thought since it was published, viewed it a few more times, read the captions, considered the comments, and now feel more comfortable in my opinion on this piece, though still, mostly thanks to Charles, not entirely comfortable. But who wants to look at art and feel entirely comfortable? Anyway, I think it’s great work. It provides us a peak into a slice of reality most people don’t realize exists. It portrays that reality honestly while exhibiting enormous respect for the subjects. I think it is incredibly well done.

    I still find it morally questionable, but as I have mentioned, morally questionable doesn’t mean morally wrong. And at the risk of overusing my shiny new phrase, if a work of art isn’t morally questionable, it’s probably not very good. Much of my initial response concerned the idea of “representation” that is prominent in, shall we say, African diaspora circles here in NYC. I know from close experience that a lot of people, and not just regular types but people on the front lines of fighting the pernicious effects of poverty and racism, are hurt by images such as these. They would feel that what the way these women “represent” paints a dishonest reality of an entire community. Another aspect, and this is one I hoped Brian would be aware of, is that many young women in the poverty ridden areas of NYC are choosing not to get an education because they think they will get rich and famous by becoming models. The young male equivalent is having unrealistic expectations of being an NBA star or a rapper. We here about that all the time, but young girls screwing up their lives because they think they are America’s next top model is a largely unknown phenomena. So, yes, seeing an essay like this hurts a lot of people who are in the know about these things. To Herve’s point, no, I don’t think those kinds of considerations should necessarily keep anyone from doing a story about this or any other issue, but as a matter of basic journalism skills, who can argue that one shouldn’t know as much about one’s subject as possible?

    Charles Peterson identified the other thing about the work that I feel raises a moral question. Concerning a few of the details that Charles identifies as making for excellent art or journalistic photographs, I ask myself if the clothes strewn on the bed or the projects in the background make for good portfolio photographs? Especially since they seem to be part of the model’s real surroundings, not artsy or exotic photo shoot locations. Am I wrong about that? Did Brian take another picture without the clothes on the bed for the portfolio? How did he balance getting the shots he wanted verses getting the shots that might do the women some professional good? Although I ask these questions, most everything I read from Brian, plus the feeling I get from the photos themselves, lead me to believe that Brian did a good job of achieving that balance. As I mentioned in an earlier comment, these women were incredibly lucky to find him as their photographer.

    I also thought Erica’s question “why choose black women” as subjects for the essay is an interesting one, but I don’t feel that really requires a response. I might feel differently if there was even a hint of disrespect for the subjects, but I just don’t see it.

    And this is embarrassing, but I missed the captions when I made my initial comments after the first couple times I watched the essay. They are a very powerful component.

    Finally, regarding much of the feminist oriented comments, I’ll just say that from my experiences in similar environs, I think this essay honestly and with great respect to the female subjects depicts a reality that is both relevant and, in many ways, profound. We can certainly argue my take on that, but if correct, I don’t see how honestly and respectfully depicting any aspect of woman’s reality is an affront to any feminist principles.

    Great work Brian. Thanks.

  • jenny lynn walker

    Mnm: “Societies that breed insecurities in both genders – maybe not societies, but industries?” Fashion. Health. Multi-billion dollar industries.

    DAH: You appear surprised that I thought these women could come up with a great essay themselves. For me, beyond those that look sad, bored and appear as if ‘used’ one too many times, there are among these women some who look not only assertive and powerful but artistic as well – beyond the identities they project through their positions and clothing which is clearly centered around the sexual needs of the male.
    It is clear to me there are infact very different black women in this essay – albeit displayed in a way that lessens their individuality and to my mind, sometimes removes their dignity as well – women who have much more to say than was shown within the confines of this essay.

    I am also pretty certain that some of the quotes have been fabricated but to find out if this is true would require contacting the women to see whether they were the exact words that they had said or if they were asked afterwards if they were happy with the words as an expression of something they had said. Or, they could be pre-prepared sentences that the women think will ‘do the job’ much like they may have gone along with ‘doing the job’ to create this essay.

    Apologies to those who I have not spoken respectfully today on here – attitudes to the essay had an effect on me. I cannot say I felt inclined to speak to any of the women on here in the same way which is perhaps something I must give more thought to. Some of the men on here come across as pretentious as well as arrogant and the way I am feeling about many of the men on here, I may not be much longer speaking on Burn so crack open the beers and get celebrating.

  • JENNY…

    my intent was only to give you an opportunity…nothing more, nothing less..i am quite sure the women here are just as curious as the men about your work…i was simply suggesting a link here in comments, not necessarily publication on the Burn front page…..

    i thought i was proposing an interesting possible process and personalized as well, and which could have had you taking it in any direction you wanted…no demands of course…freedom was the intent..

    my thoughts were based totally on your writing and your very own suggestions which somehow got turned into being “divisive bait” on my part…hmmmm, dazed and confused…

    mostly teaching and editing is rewarding…..they are similar experiences involving time away from oneself and inserting energy into someone else and their work..sometimes the process backfires and i guess that just goes with the territory….but honestly i was a bit shocked at what seemed to me to be a rather curt and dismissive response from you this morning…or, i am just too sensitive..

    in any case, i will of course look forward to whenever and wherever your work appears on your “venue of choice”…it is apparent to all i suppose that Burn is certainly not it for you…sorry

    wishing you safe journeys always….

    cheers, david

  • Michael, about what you write in your 2nd paragraph: as Thomas Bregulla has pointed out, it’s not an American, African-American, black or whatever thing that we’re witnessing, nor has it much (or at least not only) to do with poverty.. the exact same thing happens here in Europe.. I will not generalize, but I can vauch for Italy, latin female teenagers (and not only) will just do the same, the aspiration is more to be a ‘velina’ , (it translates to showgirl) than models.. it’s not poverty, not race related..

  • Eva, I trust your overall point has some validity, but I can say for certain that it is more endemic in some communities than others. If there isn’t, as you suggest, a strong general connection to poverty and/or education, I’d be surprised though. I’ve never known upper middle class kids of any ethnic group to quit school as teenagers and effectively ruin their lives because they think they’ll get rich modeling. I don’t doubt that it happens in isolated cases, but it’s hardly a societal problem. More likely they’ll strain their parents bank account taking classes or maintaining an apartment in NY or LA, then eventually face reality and get a practical degree and settle for making a nice living. Might be an interesting field of academic study, though.

  • Michael, I don’t know enough about the situation over in the US, but I completely agree with the ‘education’ thing. If you see what is legit over here, with our Mr. Berlusconi being the first promoting young women into business on very questionable bases and owning privat and public TV, newspapers etc., very often the push comes also from the parents.. it’s sick! and yes, worth a study..

  • jenny lynn walker

    Imants: Fyi, the comment I made about the gun was neither related to the photographer nor the women in the essay or the essay itself. It was related to a comment made about women being able to stand up to men and related to the fact that men are generally stronger physically than women and able to overpower women if they choose to behave in that way. This has serious consequences:

    From the National Organization for Women:
    Young women, low-income women and some minorities are disproportionately victims of rape and domestic violence. Women age 24 and under suffer from the highest rates of rape. The Justice Department estimates that one in five women will experience rape or attempted rape during their college years, and that less than five percent of these rapes will be reported. Income is also a factor: the poorer the household, the higher the rate of domestic violence – with women in the lowest income category experiencing more than six times the rate of nonfatal intimate partner violence as compared to women in the highest income category.
    American-Indian women are victimized at a rate more than double that of women of other races and African-American women face higher rates of domestic violence than white women.

  • Jenny, the gun comment.. you wrote:

    “men make women into sex objects… and congratulations, for continuing this age-old tradition!”

    sentence to which I responded.. not one word about rape or physical strenght or somesuch was written to start with.. anyway, I’ll just skip next time, as it seems I read a different board than you. Cheers.

  • jenny lynn walker

    DAH: You are always very quick to hand out ‘opportunities’ but I no longer take any of your opportunities seriously for very obvious reasons.

  • jenny lynn walker

    Eva: You are totally right, you and I do not think in the same way. Far from it. My mind make connections and cross-connections that do not aways make sense to others on first reading – and the meanings can be broader than the words conveyed. I must clarify the meanings of sentences I throw out at times. Like the sentence about the gun which was a symbol of strength and power and in this context, over women. I was thinking of all the rapes and domestic violence that goes on. Apologies for that.

  • Eva,Mnm

    I want very much to respond but have a house guest that needs to get to the airport..please be patient and i will get back to you both. As for Bob´s comment about honesty..i should also say that it was very late and this is the only part of his comment that i read since it leapt out at me..and this wasn´t fair so i will also reconsider my ¨honest¨ statement, though not sure how/if i would change my mind. But still, i should read all of what he had to say before jumping in..

    I am still feeling such visceral distaste for this project that it´s all i can think about. So perhaps i should applaud Brian..he ably and creatively photographed these women in such a way that it provoked such an emotional reaction in me. If his objective was to provoke a firestorm of debate and reaction then it´s fair to say that he more than did his job with this essay. But if it was my project, i have to say i´d be seriously looking over my shoulder for the karma monster to come biting me in the behind when i least expect it.

    And one other thing before i fly off the, fly off to the airport..was thinking about David La Chapelle..he definitely tarts up his models..but he also packs in so much humor, irony, blasphemy and outrageousness that the photos speak to the viewer on a bunch of levels simultaneously..he´s also an equal opportunity employer with Naomi Campbell getting the same treatment as Paris Hilton. So perhaps there´s a lack of depth in Brian´s work and the only thing the essay has going for it is able technique, certain racial pre/misconceptions and women willing to play their body card in the quest for fame and fortune.


  • jenny lynn walker

    Eva: When I said thank you for continuing this age-old tradition of portraying women as sex objects, I was being facetious.

    Re. The Rape issue. Feminists argue that rape is the result of systems of male dominance and from cultural practices and beliefs that objectify and degrade women. ‘Acquaintance rape’ is the most common form of rape and I really wonder how many of the thousands of women who advertise as models in the NY area end up consenting to sex with photographers or agents when their dreams center on becoming a famous model. Or, even end up getting raped by people who say they can offer them work opportunities? I bet it happens all the time.

    Is there anyone from Norway or Denmark on here? These two countries have laws against sexual objectification in advertising although nudity is not banned. Nude people can be used to advertise a product but only if they are relevant to what is being advertised. You can have a naked person advertising shower gel or a cream, but not a woman in a bikini draped across a car, it seems.

  • I wasn’t responding to you Jenny…….

  • jenny lynn walker

    I have a link to share. I hope you all find it as refreshing as I do!,_nyc

  • geez jenny, you need to chill. seems to me you’re offending more people than this essay possibly could. and I have to agree with others before, you’re all talk. you’re not shy to post a billion words, why so shy to post some pictures? after all that’s what this whole website is about.

  • jenny lynn walker

    Imants: Great. Because that last comment is by far the nicest I have ever received from you!

    DAH: I have taken the opportunity you offered re. a link on this comment page by adding a link from the author of the piece under discussion. Thank you so much!!!

  • jenny lynn walker

    Carsten: I do not have a website and have just returned home after 4 years. Very sorry.

  • I am always nice…………..

  • i’m trying to understand the misunderstandings here…i photographed in the hood(s) in Los Angeles, a lot…
    I always let the people do what they wanted to posing, no interfering..just listening to what people want to do..
    Here is a link example from a party somewhere in Compton, CA…my testimony:

    i have an honest feeling that Brian above did the same..not sold any dreams or acting like a fake teacher posing girls to make them prettier or more successful..he didnt try to take advantage , sell dreams or rip them off…Honest, decent portraits…People/girls/humans posed for him..its not the photographers fault for capturing their “intentions”..On the contrary..
    (by “intentions” i mean “hope”..)

  • JENNY…

    while you are researching, please look at Brian’s piece La Chuereca published on Burn last year…i think you might just relate to it and it has nothing to do with portraits of women of any circumstance…nor does any of his fine work with the Mormons of Utah…..Brian crosses doubt…and it is unsatisfactory to many and resonates with many more….but i do think his overall life work will be judged not on the parts, but on the whole….i am trying to imagine what he will come up with next…one thing we all know, there will be controversy … i think it was Braque who said “without controversy there can be no art”

    please know that i asked to see your Thai work since you were commenting on it everyday for two weeks, but of course could not possibly have promised to publish it sight unseen…as i said by email and i think here on Burn you had several very nice pictures…great texture and light and a fine emotional quality..however, there just were not enough for an essay….and i could not figure out any way to publish the singles either since the event aspect was long over by the time i received your pictures and by that time we all had seen so much from the bkk events on tv and every newspaper and magazine…the pictures were not symbolic enough to have lasted past the event….so, you may have been disappointed…and i understand that….believe me i wish wish i had something strong of yours to publish because i would surely do it no matter how upset with me you are for whatever reasons….you can blast me to hell forever, but i will always publish any fine work you produce…


  • jenny lynn walker

    The colours in the last image are just stunning and I like the picture of the woman in the grass as well!

    Imants: You are NOT always nice. Is it DAH’s birthday today?

  • jenny lynn walker

    DAH: I did NOT comment on my Thai work. YOU asked to see it. I did not venture it. I did not expect you to like it, understand it or publish it. There is not one image in this entire sequence that comes close to the symbolism I weaved into the last 5 of the images in that sequence. How dare you say that it will not last.

  • jenny lynn walker

    DAH: Wishing you a Happy Birthday nonetheless.

  • Go F**k yourself.
    Finally, an honest and truly felt, dare I say well researched, opinion from you Jenny. See! You can do it… :-))))

    PS: Oh, by the way, me too, I was being facetious ;-)


    Kathleen, first of all let me address your concern and comment to me. I think it is a fair and reasonable approach. First let me mention that it seems like NO ONE here has even taken the opportunity to write to Jean or acknowledge her. That to me, honestly, is one indication of what is wrong here with many of the comments. When people begin to accuse the photographer of manufacturing quotes as well, we’ve crossed the line of reasonable dialog and that is profoundly distasteful. As I mentioned earlier, it’s an interesting paradox to me as while attacking the essay and (essentially) the photographer, it become a tacit attack on the young women and an implication that a) they were exploited, b) they’re too naive/weak/uninformed to have made decisions for themselves and c) objects since they couldn’t possibly have agreed/understood why the essay/photographer is so distasteful. The irony is that this undercuts the very argument of empowerment for these women (to be portrayed other than ‘sex objects’ that the critiques themselves are asking for). In other words, it seems the critiques are, in the end, contradicting the very ideal to which they aspire: to reveal these women as more complex that the just physical/sexual/beauteous parts…..but, if a critique suggests that these women were manipulated/used/coerced, that implies that they were not aware enough/smart enough to choose to be photographed/portrayed as such….and that IS both patronizing and obnoxious AND anti-feminist….

    and I know that you are not suggesting that, but that is a tacit part of your comment to me….

    so, let me try again. I say this as a husband, son, partner, friend, colleague, supporter, mentor, admirer of women, women in all the entirety of humanity. we are all in this together. I am also a feminist, married to a strong, independent, aware woman who was a single mother. i was also rasied, in my teen years, by a woman who worked 3 jobs to support her sons and i have continually degreed the photo world for it’s often depiction of women but the unfairness of the boys club mentality in the photo world. I also worked damn hard when i was Editor-at-Large at Burn to help women send work to David/Anton and to find work. selfishly speaking, you’d be hardpressed to find a more staunch male feminist then me and i think it is slightly wrong the way this issue has come up here. The first truth and rule of feminist thinking is that of empowerment and liberation: liberation from patriarchal society, from preconceive and oppressive gender/sexual identities, from commodification based on another’s truth. In other words, the basic idea is that we all, as buddhism reminds, in this same collective of suffering together and we need each other and we must honor and support and celebrate each other: do no harm. But, this also recognizes that each person is entitled and MUST search that path for themselves and along their search we must support that and honor that and recongize that our ideas of another’s identity is just that: our own. When we project onto and we circumscribe what another must do, then we have, already, lost the way of connection.

    this is also true with pictures. A photograph is simply a superficial shell: a false layer, a graphic representation of a line. The same is true of EVERY aspect of each of us: our face, our bodies, our skin, our education, our spiritual, our experiences, our age, our mentalities: each of these are only 1 aspect and removed from the tangled filigree of the other parts makes NO SENSE AT ALL. Of course, these photographs do not reveal these women, nor do they reveal a more deep understanding of anyone, black or white, male or female. The same is true if Brian had photogrpahed 22 Business Women, or Academic Women or Police officers: the same same thing: one shell, that is it, no more. I can take this same 22 women and photograph them as in uniforms, dress suits, with family and this still tell me NO MORE essential wholeness. Just a part. So, what is the value of this work or any work??

    Photogrpahs can be openings, not truth, but openings to stories and awareness. This story has brought awarenss and has brough these women into our lives. I read the captions and the statement, i read jean’s comment and i wrote her directly here and that IS the value of work. that we get a look at something through a photograph and get introduced. all the other implications like the cracked walls of the apartment (hello, come visit us here in TO) the firescapces the exteriors, etc, these are choices to me that make this small part a connective tissue from me to them. This always happens, it seems to me, with any kind of sexuality/suggested sexuality. What happens if i photograph a series of men or women masterbating? Would that essay somehow been less important or less humane than if i did a portrait of my students who are struggling with living away from their country (which i did and was a finalist for david’s 1st EPF award?)…no, they are BOTH important….because all we have is to get a glimpse of our humanity…and all that matters….

    our education, our enrichment/poverty, our minds, our hearts, our spirituality, our sexuality, our joys and our sadnesses, our successes and our failures, our bodies and our faces and our morality and our decisions…all…and yet somehow we think these kinds of pictures somehow are worth less then, say, documentary on war….not true…

    we’re stuck here on this planet with each other and the ONLY HONESTY to me is when people acknowledge that….and these women were honest to me, as is brian, because they come forward with some part, some appearance of one part of themselves and offer no greater intellectualized idea than that…and I applaud that, fully….

    why, because as marley reminds, we must emancipate ourselves from mental slavery….

    we must see that each of us is a compsite of all that and we must celebrate that rather than castigate that

    and that is here….and i embrace them….be that in these cloths, be that with nudity or with their university diplommas….

    hope that makes sake katherine :)))

    big hugs

  • JENNY…

    there is a total lack of communication going on here, but i cannot figure out why….ok, i will try one last time to be very clear…

    yes, i did ask for the Thai pictures…because you were so involved and on the scene…as i said in my email and here, i loved those last pictures…still do..i just meant they would not last past the event as far as publishing them in connection with the event…

    imo in your portfolio or in your body of work in Thailand, of course they WILL LAST as images….pictures do not die because an event is over, but they may just find a different home, like a book or exhibition etc etc..that’s all.

    what i was looking for from bkk were images that would describe the situation in bkk that went beyond the demonstrations but still were relevant within the demo time frame….i got that idea from you….i was not there, am not familiar with all the details and was relying on your opinions and expertise ….

    but of course you should always get another editor’s opinion…Susan Welchman, Sadie Quarier, Cathy Ryan, Miki Meek…i will provide emails etc if you want….

    i only made the comment above based on you saying that i passed out “opportunities easily” but for “obvious reasons” you no longer “took them seriously”..i could only imagine you said that because of the Thai pictures not appearing on Burn..i could not imagine any other “obvious reasons” since as far as i can recall that has been our only Burn related conversation…

    anyway, we have gone way off topic under this thread…by the way, did you have a chance to look at La Chuereca or the Mormon work by Brian?

    thanks for the Birthday wishes…and in that regard i am closing shop for the day…wishing you a pleasant afternoon and evening wherever you are…

    cheers, david

  • I was wondering when I could post this one, a propos “fuck” ;-). Brian, if I may, this from Bangkok, from my soon to never be “unpublished” book on East meets West….

  • we’re stuck here on this planet with each other

    That’s the easy part, Bob. The tough one is being stuck with…ourselves! ;-)

  • The tough one is being stuck with…ourselves! ;-)
    he he..ourselves.. the “ultimate” present and responsibility!

  • Man..the more i come back to this essay..the more i love it……..

  • HERVE ! :)))))))

    that IS it indeed! :))))))….

    PANOS :)))…

    me too


    again, for those not familiar with the entirety of Brian’s work, please do check out his work on Nicaragua and Utah to which David and I wrote about….but, to bring this full circle, please check out his work Strange Men: just as deranged and brilliant and real and honest :))),_drag_queen_and_burlesque_performer,_nyc


  • jenny lynn walker

    BOB: You have said you value honesty but may I ask you what kind of honesty are you referring to? Honesty about the subject in the frame? Honesty in talking about our responses to all of this? You say you cannot capture a subject’s wholeness – the whole truth – which is completely correct but I feel you are making excuses. Images are a reflection of the author and the portrait said to be the most accurate of the different forms of photography in reflecting the mind of the author.

    I have been very honest myself on here – so honest about my feelings regarding this essay that I have lost quite a few friends it would appear. But perhaps if they are not able to understand why I feel the way I do about this essay, then our friendship would be superficial anyway. There is a quote that says: ‘those that mind don’t matter and those that matter don’t mind.’ I hope the author of this piece will bear this in mind. If I was in his shoes, I would perhaps try to ignore my comments and focus on the positive comments – although it would be good if he noticed that the positive comments are being made more by men.

    I don’t find the quotes, as they are written, believable and I am sorry to anybody, including the author, if my honesty on this is offensive. I feel that it is right to express this because it is my feeling, truthfully. I worked for years with words and just feel it. Is this something I should keep to myself? Is to question this is going too far? Should I be dishonest and keep this belief to myself?

    What a pity this essay was not photographed by a woman or by the women themselves. There would then be no question in my mind whatsoever about the intention of the author or what was in the mind of those who took the images. I do not dislike all of the photographs, far from it, and I certainly do not dislike the author but I do think there is something that needs questioning – a man doing the work as outlined in the intro. with such sexy women is bound to cause the potential for ‘conflicts of interest’…

  • jenny lynn walker

    DAH: Thank you for sparing the time on your birthday to write that comment to me. Much appreciated. Have a wonderful afternoon and evening yourself.

  • Jenny, what if the photographer was gay, or, if photographed by a women, she was lesbian?

  • Ok, PC probably would be homosexual, which would cover both options..

  • jenny lynn walker

    Eva: You would see it and the question re. intentions or conflicts of interest would be exactly the same.

  • Jenny, I do not understand you.. you seem not to take into account the wishes and choices of the women photographed, at all. It seems that they are, in your eyes, simple bait with no will. Why don’t you give them some credit?

  • Jenny:

    Honest is indeed a pretty simple thing and that is what i was referring to in one of my comments as well as my comment to Katherine. Incidentally, I in no way was i offended by either your quotation of what i’d written or Katherine’s quotation, not in the least. Nor was i offended or angered by anything that anyone has written with regard to how they react to this essay. Reaction to work, personal interpretations and conduct of behavior (including the way we speak and the attitudes which drive that) are in fact personal and complex because each of us arrives at the person we are (and have been and will become) because of a complex and interconnected history of events and impressions and education and experiences and genes and geographies, etc. If people wish to hate this work, that’s fine as flowers by me just as if people adore the work. For me, here, my role or rather why i write her is to offer (like everyone else) both their reaction and ideas to work but also the reasons why.

    As both a photographer and lover of photographer, i often am troubled that personal reactions (truthful, honest) are often not more predicated on the homework that should go into understanding or attempting to understand work. As I wrote, for me, to understand this work, or at least to try to see Brian and this essay in a more complex way that this is exploitive, superficial, immoral shit, one must (and should) look at his body of work. The problem now for me with what you have written is that you have personally assaulted and questioned his integrity and by extension the integrity of these women. By suggesting that the quotes are manufactured is BOTH irresponsible and unjournalistic. I held you to a much much higher standard. More importantly, is that this completely deflates your passionate defense of your reaction. You don’t like the work; you find it superficial, puerile, and maybe even misogynistic. Clearly you were offended by what appears to be the exploitation of women: dipicting them merely as cliched sex objects (someone above wrote in whore-positions, which is really unfortunate language, and i might say is misogynistic language itself). Fine, that’s a personal decision.

    The problem Jenny is that rather than criticize the work (which you and others have done) and offer your dislike/disdain for the work, you’ve a few times now attacked the ethics and the morality of the photographer and by extension the women involved. That, i find, distasteful. I say that to you as someone who likes you and has had a close writing and professional relationship with you, albeit one (yes) born of not having met/talked in person.

    I simply repeat again that ANY AND ALL depiction of a person (man woman) is, a priori, superficial and empty vis-a-vis their ‘true’ self. Maybe a picture can capture a sliver of the self, maybe not. Maybe pictures (in my opinion) are nothing but beginnings, nothing but a visual language to suggest something that is connective either about the other (those being photographed) or self (those doing the picture taking). One thing i do know, however, is that I cannot personally attack another person without knowing both the intent and the true nature of the action and the consequences. As a buddhist, frankly, i am suprised by much of the language you have used. Even if you felt that Brian sickingly used and exploited these young man and portrayed them in the most lascivious and empty ways (bodies for sexual desire/visual consumption), you should still have it in your character to respect both the photographer and the women being portrayed. Again, i repeat, why has almost NO ONE responded to Jean. I have, and you? I fine that irony discouraging.

    I dont define my frindships or personal relationships based on whether or not people agree/disagree or even fight. Shit, David Harvey and I have had some pretty profound disagreements and are there supporting one another. My wife and son, the greatest and most loving folk i know, have had mini wars with one another not to mention what marina and i have experienced as a married couple but there is always a deeper understanding. I mean even Panos and Herve and I have gone to battle and i care about those 2 an awful lot as honest, loving crazy men.

    the problem jenny is that in the world of photography, and the world at large, too many people relegate, castigate and create some ridiculous nomenclature of quality, of goodness of righteousness or hierarchy….22 pictures of these women is absolutely no less than 22 picture of the leaders of the G-20. it’s the same, really: photographs of people. Is a portrait of Dali Lama any more real, more important. How about pictures of people doing natural acts: washing, bathing, fornicating, defecating, urinating, sleeping?…no…it IS all the same….all about people….all one small part that adds up…

    in truth, i always take the road of trust. I trust Brian, unconditionally. I trust and believe in these women, period. That you suspect the quotes as being manufactured is not about the honesty i was speaking. Yes, you’ve given your honest opinion. But i have spoken about the honesty of 20+ women willing to allow a photographer to photograph them in the way that they wanted, being fully aware of what the essay would be, an what the pictures looked like. how many people have you or me or others photogrpahed and exhibited/published/showed pictures we’ve shot of others and NOT shown them even the final result??…..

    that is the hypocrisy i seen in moralizing/sermonizing (sorry, i guess i plead guilty on the sermonizing ;)) ) of others…..

    again, how shameful (to me) that we judge people we do not know (brian, the girls) based on our conceptions of what we expect to be pictures or the way people should be shot….

    that you suggest that a women would have shot this differently suggests to me a wrong tact….i was the commentator who suggested others look at Jodi’s magnificent/important work as well….

    the way we speak to people and suggest things about their ethics is more important to me, ultimately, than pictures…

    that is where you lost me….

    that is unfortunate

    all the best

  • Bob: and you think I’M patronizing!!?? I’ll take you up on that drink, mister. (Pints at three feet.) Put me on your next-time-in-New-York list. Bring a box of Kleenex.

  • WIND-UP:

    like all sermonizing pricks, i prefer whiskey ;))….believe it or not, i aint half the long-winded idiot in real life….drop me a line (….will be in town sometime late summer/fall….i’m much less interesting than the smarter half of my dueling, family equation ;))

    no socks allowed…..nor kleenex, mister!


  • jenny lynn walker

    Bob: I cannot change for your benefit and must stick to who I am – an honest person to my core. If my honesty is regarded as an attack on someone’s integrity as an author then that is merely a perception of how the disclosure of my honesty is perceived, not the way it was intended or delivered. You seem to be happy to make a judgement on words but not on photographs, elevating the creation of an image as if it is almost sacred, separate from an author, beyond reproach and to trust all authors imlicitly. Why?

    Having lived in a Muslim country for several years I find the amount of flesh bared in both this essay and Jodi’s just too much for my taste – way too much and this one almost verges on the pornographic to my way of seeing. You can deny my way of seeing if you like, and dislike my way of seeing but I hope you will give me the right to freedom of speech.

    I really hope that some of the women in this essay find a way to make their dreams come true. I think I entered this discussion late as I have no idea who is Jean? If I did not care about the women, I would not have commented on the essay at all. Of course every one of them is important – as important as any President or any PM or any photographer or artist.

  • jenny lynn walker

    Can’t wait to see Jodi Bieber’s book. You know it is out? If I were a man, she’s a woman I’d want to marry.

    Re. the captions on this. Wondering how they were gathered.
    Johanie’s words don’t sound right to me but Jessica’s do. Heaven’s also don’t (those last few words) but Ebony’s do. Did Denee really say those words exactly like that? Really? Tiffany and Courtney sound right. Revay’s opening comment had me laughing out loud! Just wonderful! Very funny! Lauren and Shakira’s just don’t quite hit the spot by way of sounding real and natual but i totally love what Julie says! The most wonderful comment of all to me. Love it! If they were all wearing more clothes I’d employ everyone of them in my modelling agency.

  • jenny lynn walker

    Bob wrote: To understand this work, or at least to try to see Brian and this essay in a more complex way than this is exploitive, superficial, immoral shit, one must (and should) look at his body of work.’
    Well Bob, be Brian’s guest…

  • Hi Bob

    If there´s one guy standing up for the rights of women to be who/what they are, freely and without restraint i agree it is YOU! (and Civi, heh!) However, as a WOMAN (hello? i have been there done that???) i cannot accept that 22 random women freely and spontaneously chose to strut their bodacious brown booty for this photographer. Not without his, to give him the benefit of the doubt, ¨enthusiastic support¨. Crap, Bob, i was an artists´ model for 5 years. On two occasions i was hired to do photography work and found out quickly that i was not there to express anything even somewhat honest about myself. i never posed for a photographer again because i learned you could not trust a man behind a lens. I could trust an artist but never a photographer no matter how nice a guy he was without that tool in his hand. Sorry but there it is.

    Now, take Panos…he did a photo shoot with black women and mamamia, what a healthy bunch of ladies they were! Earthy, strong, shaking their booty as well as their pride in their femininity, batting their heavily made up lashes, laughing, projecting, enjoying life and the attentions of this all-male photographer. eehawww! ohmygod, i wondered how Panos handled them all and i knew he had a ball and i had a ball looking at the photos. No one was victimized, not even maybe.

    I have five paintings done by a now-dead Panamanian artist, black i might add, of women. SAME feeling as Panos´ women. Bright, strong, intelligent, free-thinking, free-loving black, mulatto and i dunno, i think they might even be some green women in the mix. I BOUGHT five of these huge canvasses and they empower and thrill me every day of the year.

    Jenny is freaked, same way i am freaked. And Jenny, i haven´t gone too deep into the comments but i sense you are freaked. These women are pobrecitas. These women traded something important, as in their dignity, for a chance at the big time. Little did they know. sheesh. If i saw one photo, no problem, two, no problem. But 22 of the same exact pitiful flesh-flashing, tragi-comic settings and i am supposed to think these women did not have their dreams manipulated for this photgrapher´s unwholesome agenda? nope, not buying it.

    These women were not celebrated. They were trampled upon. And from the looks of them, the saddest part is this was far from the first time this has happened. And no, they don´t even know a better way, Bob because they have been trading their booty card for survival so long they wouldn´t know another way if it hit them upside their curvaceous bottoms. In some ways this is THE archetypical female experience micro-examined using black skin. But these women could be white, Asian, Indian..whatever. And to ask a male to kinda get down and see this in a female way well, not even you are gonna get it, Bob. You´re just being way too fair to this photographer and way too tolerant of HIS honesty. Because boy was he ever honest. 22 women mirrored his (and some of our) true natures back at him and us more than he will ever understand.

    Best backatcha

  • oops..that Panamanian painter´s name is Jorge March, RIP, Don Jorge!!! And you won´t even find anything celebrating him on the web because Panama never realized what a treasure he was to their country.

    “And no, they don´t even know a better way, Bob because they have been trading their booty card for survival so long they wouldn´t know another way if it hit them upside their curvaceous bottoms.”

    even despite all of jenny’s obviously ignorant remarks, this by far tops them all, and actually enrages me. these two sentences are so loaded, it would take an entire treatise to deconstruct them.

    but it is, i would dare say, the MOST EXPLICITLY RACIST comment that’s been said about this project, and thus about these women. even more sad coming from someone who claims to care about the dignity of women. you have no idea who these women are. just because their black they, therefore, use their body and sexuality to pay their way through life, presumably cuz their so broke, so poor that they have no other option? now that is a stereotype. and on top of that you’re essentially saying their stupid! so stupid, in fact, they couldn’t see a better way even if right in front of them. wow, you’ve done more harm to the dignity and intelligence of these women than any of these pictures could ever do. and to be so f**king flippant about it by sexually demoralizing them with ‘booty card’ and ‘curvaceous bottoms.’

    you’re a feminist? you’ve come a long way, baby.

    apparently you didn’t read my statement nor the models’ quotes. you need to study up a bit.

  • For those of you who have missed the day’s festivities, here’s a recap.

    Jenny @ 8:00 am — I may not be much longer speaking on Burn so crack open the beers and get celebrating.

    Jenny @ 8:58 am — Imants, blah, blah, blah.

    Jenny @ 9:17 am — David, you’re a liar.

    Jenny @ 9:29 am — Eva, my mind is too complex for mere mortals such as yourself to comprehend.

    Jenny @ 10:18 am — Eva, unfortunately, my sophisticated humor goes right over your head, too. Has anyone heard of Norway or Denmark. I have.

    Jenny @ 10:27 am — Check out this link. See, I told you, Brian’s a misogynist exploitative douchebag.

    Jenny @ 10:57 am — Imants, blah, blah, blah. David… (mumbles something unintelligible).

    Jenny @ 11:06 am — Carsten, I’m too busy for your bullshit.

    Jenny @ 11:44 am — Brian’s not a total douchebag. Only 90 percent.

    Jenny @ 12:20 pm — David, you are too stupid to understand how truly impressive my work is. And how dare you comment on work I’ve sent you for comment?

    Jenny @ 12:20 pm — David, you’re an asshole, but happy birthday anyway.

    Jenny @ 2:39 pm — Bob, you wouldn’t know honesty if it bit you in the ass. I am so fucking honest, I’m like Jesus fucking Christ and just like Jesus, I am crucified by evil men. And anyway, Brian just made that shit up that “appears” to not make him look so bad. What a pity some woman from Borneo didn’t shoot this essay. That would have been great!!!!!

    Jenny @ 2:51 pm — David, it’s your birthday, go fuck yourself.

    Jenny @ 3:14 pm — Eva, I don’t know what the hell I’m saying, but I can use big words.

    Jenny @ 5:47 pm — Bob, words just can’t express how ga ga fucking honest I am. Seriously. I used to live in a Muslim country, so I know a lot about clothes. And those women I’ve bee belittling all day, they’re great people, I’m sure.

    Jenny @ 6:20 pm — Read some book, then you’ll be better able to communicate at my level. Captions, women, blah, blah, blah, if only the frickin tarts would put on some goddammed clothes, maybe I’d approve of them!!!!

    Jenny @ 7:56 pm — Bob, you’re a douchebag. Just face it.

    Jenny @ 8:00 am — I may not be much longer speaking on Burn so crack open the beers and get celebrating.


  • Kathleen, I’ve always enjoyed your comments, but I’m afraid Brian’s right about that one. That was a horrible thing to say.

  • ha! i missed the douche bag comments. perfect! beautiful compilation.

  • Brian

    Please don´t insult me that i would take a stand like i have taken without properly reading your statement or the model´s essays. This is my reaction to your essay, Brian. You took a lot of chances with your work. You succeeded in many ways but when you take chances like this not everyone is going to follow along as you would like. I can´t see this essay the way you do, the way others do. I cannot and i explained why i cannot. Call me flippant, racist (*sigh*)..what the hell ever. I see these women as tragic. And i don´t care what color their booty is. No these women are not stupid. They´re ambitious. They want to get somewhere. They wanna be big models. And not a ONE asked to be shot in jeans and a cute tee shirt/ edgy runway style dress/ sports top and running shorts/ good quality lingerie/ hell even a biker jacket and frayed jeans? Not ONE of these girls asked to express her individuality, beauty, intelligence and personality without nudity? And this is how you´re gonna help them to get into ¨runway, high-end fashion, print or commercial work to eye-candy and artistic nudes¨? REALLY? What, are they gonna do photos like these and get toothpaste ads? a runway gig? Victoria´s Secret? Playboy? Maxim? a music video? Well if so then i apologize because you clearly have your finger on the pulse of the fashion and advertising industry a lot more than i do. I am just a female consumer who buys the junk that models help to sell. I clearly know very little about the modeling industry. But that does not change my reaction to this essay or to the undercurrent i feel of exploitation and degradation i get from this essay. And if this does indeed help even one single model in this essay to get lucrative modeling work then good for them. But i´d love to see documentation of this when and if it happens. Cuz i am not betting on this essay getting anyone anywhere unless it´s you.


  • Michael

    22 women chose to use nudity and dismal settings to portray themselves because they either were not offered an option or could see no other option. Of 22 random females there would have been at least one, two, three who would have chosen some other environment, clothing, attitude. 22 women could not ALL have followed Brian like lemmings to the brink of decency without his strong support. And i have to wonder why. And i am given as answer that he´s just giving them a leg up in the industry. BAH! He is treating them like objects and they went along with it for SOME reason that i do not know and can only surmise.


  • Brian

    I meant model´s captions, not ¨essays¨ in my previous post to you.

  • kathleen, nice try. these women, as you are suggesting, are not delusional. they full understand, as do i and any photographer they shoot with, that one little picture won’t get them all the way. my picture may or may not even be in their larger body of modeling work, called a portfolio, which is what will take them, along with the other pictures taken by other photographers, to where they want to go, hopefully. did you forget that they have such things? so my one picture is one among many that represents different sides of themselves as a model, or what kind of modeling they may like or be interested in doing in the path to attaining their dream. it seems you, and others, are losing sight of the larger picture here. many more factors go in to making them successful models. but perhaps my one little image will help.

    you seeing them as ‘tragic’ is fine, but that is on you, that is coming form somewhere within yourself.

    and who’s nude in any of these pictures? perhaps we didn’t shoot in biker jacket and ripped jeans because that’s so boring, pedestrian, and ordinary, not to mention – cliche.

  • hahahaha, and peek-a-boo skintight dresses is not boring, pedestrian and what ever else, Brian? You put yourself have proven that it is not the cheap dress but the photographer behind the camera that creates the cliche, or not. Your shooting is stellar. You have created a lot of electricity and tension in these photos. You take a frankly junky, wrinkled dress and zapped it with energy. So you could have done the same with other types of clothes. My question/problem/issue and you refuse to address it is that 22 women all went the same route and that route is frankly vulgar and overtly sexual. I refuse to make assumptions that it´s because they´re all black that they did this, regardless of his racist you think i am. They are unique indivudals who turned themselves into or were turned into objects.

    portfolio? ohhhh, is that what that thing is called? shucks. man, i thought it was just like a looseleaf binder with a bunch of photos in plastic sleeves. Goes to show what i know. huh!

  • yes, kathleen and jenny, i finally concede:

    i’m an abusive misogynistic monster who’s only desire is to objectify women. if only i were a woman, like jodi beiber, then i could take every single image of my subjects at home scantily clad lounging around suggestively in their lingerie. that would be perfectly fine, even liberating.

    [ps: i really do love her work.]

  • and since my language use is deteriorating from travel fatigue and over-immersion in this essay. i will politely withdraw. Brian, you done good on one level. You shot edgy photos of what probably are interesting women. Too bad not a single one of them was depicted in any other way than sexual. And i owe that to you, not them. Period. I have nothing more to contribute here.


  • do i dare jump in…….
    wow.. heated and HOT… This was clearly a collaboration between photographer and subject.. This is one persons vision… thats all it is… brian takes responsibility for his images, and I think honored these women… PORNOGRAPHIC!?!?!?!?!?! WHAT?!?!?!?! I am so curious with all this, cause my current project is on human sexuality, ones ownership of…. I’ve found myself on army bases, in old brothels, cowboy bars and all… so to read this OUTRAGE for these images is shocking…. how do we as women express our sexuality? our sensuality? whats acceptable, and whats not? if a woman is comfortable in her body, and finds her breasts pretty or her booty sexy, and wants them to be photographed, is that pornographic? its beautiful to feel sexy… I dunno… I don’t agree with jenny or kat, but I understand where they are coming from… no problem keeping the fire BuRNING tonight……. ***

  • i sent my post without seeing your last one but will only say i haven´t seen Jodi´s work yet so can´t address your comment anyway..

    take care..

  • wendy: THANK YOU! coming from a woman maybe they’ll listen. and sounds like a super interesting and daring project.

  • the shocking thing really is that the pictures are, in reality, quite tame, so it’s stunning that people are getting so riled up about it.

  • wendy


    NOT pornographic..i never said or even thought that..i think my problem is a disconnect between artist´s statement and the actual essay. Which has happened before. i can´t reconcile the two and in this case, never got from the statement that all 22 women were exploring their sexuality. Here´s what Brian says,

    ¨a cross-section of real people who want to do every kind of modeling, from runway, high-end fashion, print or commercial work to eye-candy and artistic nudes. Their interests are varied, as are their looks and beauty, but this one dream ties them all together. Behind that dream are fundamental human issues that touch upon identity, body, beauty, sexuality, race, and the drive to be recognized in a culture obsessed with fame and celebrity. I hope that these portraits can in some way contribute to their pursuit.¨

    the statement says these women are a cross section with varied interests. Sorry, don´t see any variety whatsoever. Different models, same thang.

    but i said goodbye and now i am really off (my rocker)…

    best Wendy

  • kat
    :) :)

  • whoops

  • kathleen, this project is not about sexuality, though clearly that is an element, as si say in my statement. for you, for some reason, it has become the only and defining element. that is all you see, and that says something about you.

  • Brian, this is churning in my mind, maybe you don’t mind me asking a couple other questions…in response to my first comment, you wrote

    “i think it would have diluted the project immensely if i had included other races. i thought about that actually, and it would have been too unfocused. and would have been far too difficult to include every race, and then it brought up questions of which races to include and not to include, why these races and not that one, etc.”

    so, how do you think it would have diluted the project, visually, conceptually, both, and why? and, seeing as you did pick one race, why this race “and not that one”? thanks! ever seen the movie ‘defending your life’ :) ?

    bob – i think we might need to leave this for in person…i think you somewhat misunderstood my thinking, and i haven’t the time/strength to clarify or find out for sure!

  • The male in me says Ms October(10) she looks pretty cute …………

  • It seems to me that Mr. Shumway has been honest and accommodating in his portrayal of the models in this essay. The fact that he replaced an image in his photo-essay to please one of the models immediately silences any fears that I would have regarding exploitation.

    Let’s not forget that (in the States) Glamour Shots outlets exists on the premise that the subject will be photographed with more “glamour” that a straight shot would allow. Soft filters + make-up “artists” will produce a product for which many women (and men) are paying.

    It would appear to me that Mr. Shumway is not filtering the portrayal of models in any way (or at least minimally)…

  • Now, take Panos…he did a photo shoot with black women and mamamia, what a healthy bunch of ladies they were!
    Hey there, as far white guy shooting black women, Panos is not the…panoscea! :-)))))))

  • Just wondering what would have been the reactions if a white woman had taken (shot) black guys within the same esthetic parameters Brian did with these young women.

    I keep saying young women, because I kinda think some of the criticism, patronizing, and talking in their names, has to do with that. And I rarely equate being young with being tragic.

    Patricia showed as much as them in many of her shots of herself, but there, no one found anything tragic, exploitative, deluded, objectivized (all photography, save the blurriest one, is objectivization, it comes with the precision in recording for which cameras are well known, the subjectivization comes from what is not in the frame), and on the contrary saw a woman being proud of her body, and I believe, her female sexuality.

    So again: what gives?…..

  • Sorry, I do equate being young with being tragic. Many times. like a 11 yo child sold to pimps like a piece of flesh and forced to be raped in some cambodian or wherever, brothel.

  • jenny lynn walker

    Kathleen: It was a great start to the morning to read these words you wrote while I was sleeping – especially the comment to Bob re. whose honesty we are seeing here:

    “dreams manipulated for this photgrapher´s unwholesome agenda…

    “the saddest part is this was far from the first time this has happened. And no, they don´t even know a better way, Bob because they have been trading their booty card for survival so long they wouldn´t know another way if it hit them upside their curvaceous bottoms.

    “this is THE archetypical female experience micro-examined using black skin. But these women could be white, Asian, Indian, whatever. And to ask a male to kinda get down and see this in a female way well, not even you are gonna get it, Bob. You´re just being way too fair to this photographer and way too tolerant of HIS honesty. Because boy was he ever honest. 22 women mirrored his (and some of our) true natures back at him and us more than he will ever understand.

  • By saying these women are exploited, you are assuming they are niave, need to be protected and weak. In short everything feminism has taught me and all my 20 something sisters I am not. If he had jumped on a plane to Afghanistan, hired a guide and shot beautiful moody images of women in burkhas would we be having the discussion? That to me would be much more exploitative at the very least these women knew how they were being shot.
    It’s just a pair of tits people- not a porno. By feeling threatened by such a natural thing you are in fact leaving these women in a much worse place than the photos have.
    My initial reservations were just that aspiring to be a model seems a bit like a short asian person aspiring to be huge nordic viking- if your not given the looks by god no amount of hard work will get you there. But Brian- I still love them and still thank you for making memorable images and getting everyone fired up!

  • i have read all comments here very carefully, have looked at the work carefully….i do in fact support many of the “questioning” comments made and yet i also support the work..this may sound contradictory…..but when you read below i think you may understand my point……everyone i think knows that i am a white caucasian male, having been dealt this hand by fate…over the years my kindred sisters have been tolerant, patient, and wise, and my early teachers and were my mother and grandmother….and i am always both curious and respectful of how women think in a way that may be different from me….

    just setting the stage ….context

    it is definitely true that it is very difficult for a straight white male to photograph sexuality in any way shape or form………………….NOT DIFFICULT TO DO IT, BUT DIFFICULT TO BE ACCEPTED DOING IT….i actually cannot think of anyone who has successfully done it and with a book, exhibit, etc behind it….duane michaels, r.mappelthorpe, nan goldin, sally mann etc etc can all express themselves with sexual content, but Brian cannot…that is unfortunately assuming that all straight white males are all totally incapable of being sensitized in any way shape or form…so, in fact, in the art world that makes them the minority….

    i am just setting the stage again a bit…

    i totally can understand why many women would either immediately feel either threatened or repulsed by these images …particularly by the middle or upper class women of any race …these pictures are not about race or about sex, but about class…please just hear me out…..

    regarding the poses of the women photographed here:

    as many of you know i have been photographing black people (we are all African descended) since my late teens…a search of my archive and my books will quickly show that i have way more pictures of black people than white people….there are black women in my immediate family now (i am uncle David), i came very close the marrying a black woman who i was with for four years, and some of my deepest relationships are with my black brothers and sisters…i do not just take pictures of blacks, but i am often living in their homes, absorbed in the many variants of the black experience….this does not make me black nor any kind of expert on black culture at all…but i have been listening and looking for a long time…most of my black friends would also let out a hearty laugh if i asked them if they knew anything about black people…my friend Rukus would just laugh and say something like “Dave you be the blackest man here…” laughing til he couldn’t stop…

    when i am photographing anyone, of any race, i always try to take a picture first that they would want…a warm up shot…one that i will give them the next day as a gift…not a picture that i will use for my work, but simply their vision of themselves…i am doing this now in Rio….the way people pose for these pictures is dependent often on race , class, culture and host of other possible variants..i am sure many of you know exactly what i mean…when i was shooting Living Proof i actually thought of making the whole book “the pose” because in almost every case in the culture surrounding hip hop is “the pose”…

    for sure if i ask any woman on the beach in Rio for a picture, she will immediately without me saying anything at all, fall into what would appear as a sexually explicit pose…and when i see girls taking pictures of girls, i see the same it is not being expected from me as a man, but just expected from THEM and what THEY want when they are being photographed period……as you know, i do not choose to publish these pictures..they are for them and not for me…

    by the way, “the pose” even goes for very young girls with their mother’s holding their hand and their father’s looking on proudly as they give me “the pose” which generally means , get that booty out there …..i am actually often embarrassed by this , or at least was, until i realized the very different way some cultures express themselves sexually or feel about sex in general and its perception to the outside world…what my Methodist Puritanical background would tell me is that this is a sexy pose, but for many cultures even a sexy pose is simply natural and even “sexy” is considered good and ultimately a sign of attraction for the purpose of producing a family…so grandmothers smile when they see their grand daughters showing their booty so to speak…again, NOT in every culture and NOT in every class either…my only point is that i can see Brian’s women doing exactly what they are doing no matter who was taking the picture…

    at the very same time i would also like to see a woman’s take on this demographic as well and i am waiting…remember, Burn did not assign Brian to photograph these women as Davd LaChappelle was assigned to photograph both Naomi Campbell and Christie Brinkley….no ethnic decisions on his part….a job..not a personal project as is Brian’s who chose this style , this demographic, for better or worse…but i really would publish in a heartbeat the woman’s version of this, but i cannot publish it if it does not happen..and what the world has been waiting for a long long time is for a black woman photographer to make a mark…it will happen, it must happen…

    in any case, i think perhaps the most valid criticism that could be leveled at Brian is not that he directed these women, but that he stayed only within one particular demographic within the larger demographic of “black” …

    of course this is the conundrum because this is also what makes his essay special ..very special….Brian will just have to live with the fact that if he puts this essay out there, then he will be living with this controversy for the life of the book or whatever…

    however, this may indeed be something Brian will be willing to live with and explain forever, for i must say that of all the essays ever published on Burn (250 plus) this imo is the most likely to succeed in a long term way as a book as an exhibit ..the whole shebang…

    the controversy, for good or evil, will of course help to propel Brian forward…

    Sally Mann only really picked up speed when the Governor of Virginia himself denounced her from the Governors Mansion when her work was about to go up in the Virgina Museum of Fine Arts showing nude pictures of her very own prepubescent children…

    i am not justifying nor promoting the virtues of this, i am simply stating fact and seeing how the art world and the world of commerce work together in certain ways…again i am observing , not promoting..

    when i first saw Brian’s work i thought PARODY…the boy has managed to shoot a parody of his own shoot…the pictures are so so cliche in one sense and such an overstatement, that i think art critiques in the future will totally lock in on this aspect particularly given Brian’s background as a quite serious and talented photographer…

    two possible scenarios:

    one, Brian will hit it big… he will have a lot of explaining to do, but will enjoy every moment of explaining it…the naysayers will be way way out of focus in the background….

    two, because he is white male straight , he will not make it because of a sort of reverse discrimination in the art/publishing world…

    which way do you bet?

    cheers, david

  • Kathleen/Jenny:

    very unfortunate….and it’s unfortunate you didn’t take a look (and read) Jodi’s essay ‘real beauty’….they’re not the same, but are siblings ideas and work….

    you both can have the last word….

    those are some most depressing missives

    all the best

  • jenny lynn walker

    Bob, it seems there is one hell of a massive communication problem on here! If you are talking to me, of course I have looked at Jodi’s work – months ago. As far as I recall, it was you that made a comparison between the two pieces of work but why, I have no idea. As far as I’m concerned there IS no comparison.

    You see this essay totally differently to me and that is great. A few months back, I was speaking to a photojournalist who was very worried about the authenticity of a fellow’s work and suggested to me, given that neither of us knew that photographer, that it would be a good way to learn about someone’s character by throwing a lot of questions and being very annoying generally.

    Here, it seemed that the author’s condescending remarks got worse as time went on and there were increasing numbers of sexist remarks as well, even the use of the word baby at one point. Perhaps we learned more about the photographer and others on here through reactions on this thread than by looking at photographs?

    Anyway, I can assure you that Jodi – even when I put her on the spot with a pointed and difficult question – remained even-tempered, respectful and dignified throughout. I think many Burnians, myself included, could learn quite a bit from Ms Beiber.

  • jenny lynn walker

    oops… spelling mistake… Bieber. Jodi. From South Africa.

  • ¨one, Brian will hit it big… he will have a lot of explaining to do, but will enjoy every moment of explaining it…the naysayers will be way way out of focus in the background¨


    Brian will not hit it big as long as he makes snide and insulting remarks to naysayers who are trying to understand what he is doing. If he has a vision and is convinced of that vision then his route to fame should be via the high road. If he becomes defensive and sarcastic instead of illuminating and educational that only serves to reinforce the objections to his work. When Brian called me racist and flat out told me that my objections clearly have to do with a problem within myself, well, to tell you the truth, my reaction is dismissive, not engaged. Because why should i go there? I don´t get what he´s doing, he doesn´t get what i don´t get and never the twain shall meet.

    I agree that a big part of the success/failure of this work is that Brian stayed so resolutely within one demographic. And not just that his models came from this demographic but that he froze them in the same environment for all of eternity when the dream common to all of these women was to escape their reality. Oh, and not only did he keep them physically in the hood, he also displayed their wares and their words to their full dis/advantage. Now, either he´s brilliant or else he´s a pri*k. Which is it? And when I am called essentially a rascist sexually uptight female for begging to know WHY well then, screw him. I know which it was.

    I see these photos and it makes me hurt inside for every gloriously elegant, smart and beautiful black woman i have ever known/seen all the way from Michelle Obama to my daughter´s roommate and best friend in college. I see Brian´s photos and i see Julie´s friend (phi beta kappa) and i just gasp with the offensiveness of Brian´s caricature of black women. And David, listen, you and i both know that many black women rise above, (whether literally or figuratively) their demographic every day of the week. Just because they come from the hood doesn´t mean that´s all they are. Jenny said it perfectly in an earlier comment when she observed so well that some of these women really did manifest their powerful uniqueness and artistic natures even from within the confines of Brian´s projections. I noticed that too and it only made me feel sadder for all of them.

    David, thanks for this post. I was not going to come back in here but wanted to respond to your deeply felt response.


  • emcd no i’ve never seen that movie. is it good? the reason i chose black women is, i feel, pretty much explained in my statement. i suppose if i had chosen asian women, for instance, and not black women the same question could still be asked, and probably not very well answered. but here goes: i just saw that there is a huge number of black women out there who are trying to pursue modeling and so few who actually make it. this discrepancy seems more pronounced with black women perhaps than other races, and also suggests more of systemic bias. in fact, behind white women, black women make up largest group of women pursuing modeling (at least in the NYC area), yet their opportunities for success are infinitely smaller. we don’t see many of them on the runway or in the pages of magazines, so i thought why not see who they are for myself. i hope that helps.

  • kathleen, my apologies. but your comment did upset me, but let’s move on and i’ll be more constructive. i just responded to emcd, and i hope that offers you some insight.

    but again, i must say i feel you are projecting some of your own racial misconceptions about black women onto the photographs. what makes you feel like they’re from ‘the hood’? indeed some of the pictures are shot in an urban environment, but some are also shot in a park, and even in the snow with a beautiful background, not a hint of ‘the hood’ in sight. there are many environments in which we find them. one model even lives in a luxury high rise in columbus circle (#3).

    i’m not sure where you live, but much of what may be giving you the ‘hood’ feel may be the mean streets of nyc, beyond the upper east or upper west sides or chelsea, etc. i liked, as did the models, the urban feel of the pictures, those that have them. but i suppose you have a distaste for that?

  • Jenny

    I was writing my response to David as you posted yours to Bob. Interesting that you and i take strong offense to the condescending nature of Brian´s remarks. I actually now see his defensiveness as the single weakest element of his work. If he had a true vision that was as out-of-the-box as DAH is suggesting it might be, then seems to me he would have known/thought deeply about how provocative the work would be in the end. And this would have bolstered his conviction and prepared him for all sorts of remarks from the possible wolf calls from the audience to those who appreciate his artistic achievments to those who have serious ethical issues with the vision itself. And the fact that he chose to get down in the dirt and sling mud at the naysayers tells me something about the concept from the get-go.


  • Brian

    hold it..just saw your comment..let me read your words to Erica and i will respond..and yes, #10 was an amazing grabbed me, held me, thrilled me.


  • Could one of you please explain what ‘hood’ means? Neighbourhood? If yes, why is there a negative connotation to it? Sorry, English isn’t my native language, gotta fill a gap here..

  • oh erica mcdonald hi! didn’t know it was you….

  • Brian

    ohmygod, are you kidding? I love urban streets!! It forms the entire nature of one of the two projects i devote my time to. i spoke of the hood because of the car lot, the cracked walls, etc. i realize you may have been limited to the places you could use to express your vision of these women but the shabby environs only served to reinforce what seemed to be your own stereotypes of black women. So please, since we are speaking civilly to each other, tell me why the sexual posturing? Did these women think that was the way to engage you? To attract an audience to their talents? to express their true natures? Why?? i am very disturbed by some of the captions where one girl sees her beauty as her only talent, an innate craft for example..this really just breaks my heart, Brian! Can´t you see why Jenny and i are beside ourselves?

  • hi eva ‘hood’ is slang and is usually, to my understanding, used as a negative, pejorative, and condescending word to refer to neighborhoods where non-white (mainly black and latino) people live. often implies that the people live in poverty and are low-class. correct me if i’m wrong….

  • Eva

    The ¨hood¨ is slang for neighborhood, mainly urban and predominantly ethnic though it´s use is pretty much ingrained in the English language now as just a hip word for where someone lives. My use goes back to its original roots as being a black urban neighborhood.


  • Brian

    seems i keep crossing other people´s posts..good job on ´hood´as far as i understand the term but it´s use is a point of pride now, now in ¨Jenny from the hood¨(re:Jennifer Lopez´song)

  • i lived in the hood…i dont see why is it so political incorrect?

  • kathleen i feel perhaps you are very sensitive to sexual elements of some of the essay. please refer to what david said about that. i don’t want to get hung up on this because, as i said, sexuality is just one aspect, but this is modeling after all and fashion/modeling has always been a way for men/women to express the sexual/sensual side of themselves, as some of the models say in their quotes. that should be no surprise.

    also, being white and, as i was, probably brought up in a relatively sexually repressive middle-class/upper-middle class environment, where sexuality, the body and all things connected are to remain hidden and private and are often seen as dirty, black culture views expression of ones sexuality in a more open way. it’s seen as natural and normal, part of one’s everyday self. david also eluded to this.

  • ..and it was predominantly Salvadorian…

  • black culture views expression of ones sexuality in a more open way

    i agree on that…

  • panos i don’t think it’s political….

  • Let’s not forget that (in the States) Glamour Shots outlets exists on the premise that the subject will be photographed with more “glamour” that a straight shot would allow. Soft filters + make-up “artists” will produce a product for which many women (and men) are paying.
    justin…i absolutely agree on your observations..

  • Kathleen, Brian: thanks!

  • Brian

    i think you are making an assumption that among all black people sexuality is always freely expressed. If someone were to say that all Latin women are coquetas (flirty show-offs–as DAH mentioned about the females on the beach) well i happen to know it isn´t true and i am offended on behalf of the Latina women who are naturally more modest and reserved. Hence, i am offended that this is the sole focus of black women who supposedly are unique individuals. Now maybe these 22 women were all like that but i cringe to think that is true. Black women have all sorts of unique things to say and you captured one, only one. Except maybe number 10 because, in spite of the nudity, she manages to convey dignity, reserve and mystery. This does not mean i have a problem with black women baring their bodies for you, or Latina women with their lacy cleavage hanging out at the mall..NOT at all! But neither would i ever, EVER imply that this is true of ALL black and Latina women. And your essay, grr..i am tired of saying this, says that manifesting sexuality in front of the camera is the only thing black women know how to do. And now, i really have to head hurts and i have a lot of stuff i have to do. So best of luck to you in your work, Brian. If nothing else i hope Jenny and i have made you think about and solidify your vision..and if anything hit a nerve well maybe that´s not a bad thing to take with you, eh? go back to sleep ;)


  • suggestion you go back to sleep had to do with your comment about hood being politically incorrect..not your subsequent comments which show you´ve had your morning coffee after all :))


  • brian..i think u did a great job…

    Kathleen..:) big hug , u know how much i respect u right? Listen, u mentioned my name regarding the link i posted..thank u i agree with u..Im no expert on the minority/majority? racial “thing” but one thing i know fo sho…To accept someone (models in this essay) is to really let them be..that means, let them be them,pose the way they are/feel/need (see the world) etc..i think Brian did an honest, job..he was real…but why wouldnt he? Brian does not forces me to “accept” anything…i still have the right to interpret the meaning of his photos…so he did his job..very well done imo…i love controversy too, but honestly i dont see any just for the sake of it…these are photos/portraits from Brooklyn i think..well its the real thing…no gimmicks..take my word for it for whatever it worths..

  • DAH

    I was not offended by your discussion of the Latina tendency to display their booty. I know it´s true. But as you know, it is not exclusively true. You did not say it was 100% true of course..but if someone were to say that or if someone were to create an essay that said that, i would be as offended as i am with Brian´s essay. And as for an essay dealing brillinatly with the Latina focus on beauty…La Chica Barbie was THE brilliant exposé on that subject.

  • he will not make it because of a sort of reverse discrimination in the art/publishing world…which way do you bet?

    As usual, he will make it (or would, can’t predict, we are so many with a wish so alike to these young women) when the ink has dried, the people doing the reverse dis’ will have passed their “use” date, and the publishing/art as we know it today, will not be recognizable anymore. That could be 15, 20, 30 or 50 years. Like most artists.

    Or he could achieve popular success enough, and acquire an audience that can safely have him thumb his nose at the kingmakers.

    running… no shit, I must.

  • Panos

    Yeah, feeling´s mutual :) Your slide show of your shoot of the back women was wholly different from Brian´s essay. Of course it was different because you aren´t Brian..but beyond that..the feeling was so positive..and you didn´t elevate their environment to some mansion in the Hills and you didn´t dress them and you didn´t pose them and you didn´t squash their sexuality but neither did you focus entirely on that. In your work i totally got that. I felt free and enjoyed ¨meeting¨ these ladies i will never have the chance to know and seeing inside their world and watching them clown around and ham it up and strut their stuff and all of it. But this is different, Panos..Brian DID have a say in the clothes and the poses..he says as much..he did direct the shoots. His reputation and artistic future was on the line. He had something to say here…you let the ladies say it. There is a difference from my point of view.

    and i really have to go so please carry on without me..


  • kathleen
    hhmmmm….i wasn’t saying that all are like that (because obviously they’re not), just saying that it’s a cultural phenomenon (as david was saying). as for your central point against the project, this project is not about all the things that black women can or can not do, they can indeed do many more things than just pose in front of a camera. but this project is about modeling, which inherently deals with the body and sexuality, along with many other things. perhaps, as a man, i don’t see it as being as sexually charged as you. or maybe it becomes inherently more sexually charged and objectified because i am a man. have you seen bieber’s real beauty project? would like to hear your thoughts on that.

  • jenny lynn walker

    DAH: I hope you had a wonderful birthday. I didn’t understand your comment about expressing with sexual content and about white males are in a minority in the art world? Could you explain?

    Re. the posing. Are you talking about black Americans? Posing seems to be spreading fast around the globe – in Asia and in Africa as well – not in submissive poses but confident and sassy poses or trying-to-be-confident and sassy for the more shy among the posers. But I can’t see how you can say that who is behind the camera doesn’t make a difference or did I misunderstand you – and also, who is around? A few weeks ago, I stoppped to ask two beautiful black women in sprayed on dresses on the street in Bangkok where they were from because they so stood out from the crowd and we chatted for a couple of minutes and I asked if I could take a pic. Their faces lit up like streetlamps and their whole body language changed when and they grabbed my husband and draped themselves around him!

  • Brian

    haha, i am laughing with you..not at anything you said but at how exhausted you must be from all i know i am..really, no hard feelings about any of it..and i hope you feel the same way. it´s been a really exhilirating discussion. i don´t could be really what i said to Bob that the way i am feeling/seeing this essay is entirely the result of being a woman and you and i are simply on two sides of the same fence. Could be! I dunno..i just think lots of things can be done with a camera and your interaction with these lovely ladies (and some are absolutely gorgeous) could never be what mine would be. So, let´s leave it at of luck and success with your work..oh and i WILL check out Jodi´s essay a bit later..i am also super curious about it but haven´t been able to shake loose from your hold over me, boy! ;)))

    mas tarde!


  • kathleen agreed i guess we’ll agree to disagree but i do find it interesting that, as far as women’s responses to this, i think you and jenny are in the minority in your views about it. but hey it was nice to hear your thoughts and concerns about it, because being challenged does force one to think through what they’re doing and why more deeply. i thank you for that!


    Why can’t “sexual” be beautiful? And why every time somebody does an essay, do the viewers often feel the need to chastise because the photographer hasn’t covered the entire world in his piece. This is a slice of life, that also happens to be particularly photogenic (isn’t that what we often look for subject wise as photographers?) and no it doesn’t portray black female dentists, or lawyers, or Michelle Obama. So why don’t you and Jenny go do that? And make them dynamic photos to boot and then you/them will get your day on BURN.

    I think Brian’s one mistake on here, and it’s a common one, was over-stating the socio-political agenda of the photographs in his text. Really, if he had just said this is a slice of a sub-group of women, those pursuing amateur modeling, and that he chose black women solely in order to make the essay more focused and dynamic and doable (after all isn’t the DAH credo), and then left the conclusions up to the viewer, that might have been better. But as it is the photographs stand, and they are powerful and complex and the fact that they stir so many emotions attests to their importance and validity.

  • jenny lynn walker

    Brian: I hope you will either drop this project, expand it to include aspiring models from other races/cultures or get more free yourself in taking images so that the women don’t come across as sex objects as so many of them do right now – and unhappy sex objects to boot.

    If you can’t paint them in a positive light, what you are creating is a disservice to them and their aspirations and does not honour your ‘contract’ with them – verbal though it is/was. To me, it looks like you have very mixed feelings about black women and not all of those feelings are ‘nice’ (and I don’t just mean finding them sexy or being attracted to them). I just feel you are not being entirely honest with yourself and/or with the models.

    I’m really not keen on classification and still think the title is offensive. It makes me wonder what is coming next: ‘White Girls’ ‘Chocolate Chicks’? To me it is condescending. After all, these are not girls, they are women – and some of them, strong and independent-minded women although not captured that way in these photographs.

  • jenny i hope you’ve been taking in the whole discussion. i’m not really sure what else to say; i obviously can’t change your views on fashion, modeling, sex, and the body. you feel how you feel and i accept that, but i completely disagree. these women are not powerless sex objects, as you seem to think. they in fact participated in the creation of the pictures, they were collaborators, as i said in the statement.

    please don’t tell me what my feelings are. i do not have mixed feelings about them. i don’t apologize for this project, but as i said before, you can do your own counter-project, making the women look as you think they should.

    you may be taking the title a little too literally. i got the inspiration for the title from a lenny kravitz song by the same name, which exalts the unique beauty black women possess.

  • jenny lynn walker

    Alternatively, go the full way and entitle it: ‘Sex Object’. Get a borader range of women across every race, colour, culture and every other division and get every single one of them eyes to the camera and hand with the one-finger salute! Maybe that should be my project! Bit sick of all the objectification that goes on by men towards the amazing women of this world. : )

  • jenny lynn walker

    Sorry Brian, our comments crossed!

  • jenny lynn walker

    The unique beauty black women possess?! That would be just great to read in the first line of intro!

  • JENNY,

    I’m sorry, but you are starting (well, not even starting) to sound like some bat-shit crazy granny living in a cave in the Appalachians. What missionary work were you doing in that Muslim country? Maybe you lived in a Muslim country far too long (went native did we?).

    Now in my ‘hood (a term of endearment) black girls and women make even going to church look sexy (and the men too!.) Get out of the house a bit okay? And by house I imply your own hang-ups about what people should and shouldn’t be. It’s the 21st century after all, though often Muslims and Catholics believe we are only entering the 17th.

    And by god, don’t you think Brian, after spending time with 20 plus subjects, often in their own living situation, he would get to know something about them, their dreams and aspirations. And do you really think these women might suggest they be photographed in their take out the trash baggy sweats or a business suit? Or how about a gortex rain jacket!! Make the young (you do remember being young don’t you?) black women look white – that should appease the feminists in the crowd. Give me a fucking break and start to think a little about what you are seeing. And give Brian the benefit of the doubt that out of his own time and $ spent on this he and the women who are his subjects might have a bit of an idea what they are doing and what it means.

    Really, sex wise, this stuff is pretty tame compared to what’s in most European fashion mags. Open your eyes and look around.

    Maybe it’s time to go back to the one comment rule…. and just pictures of puppies and protesters.

    And Michael W you made me almost spray my coffee with your “daily recap.” Fucking hilarious….

  • jenny lynn walker

    Black Girl by Lenny Kravitz

    Black girl, so fine and bright
    Black girl, you shine as the night
    Black girl, you move me so right
    I just have to make you mine
    ‘Cause you make me lose my mind

    Black girl, with beauty so deep
    Black girl, just rock me to sleep
    Black girl, good things you will reap
    ‘Cause you’re of the ancient vine
    And you’re from another time
    And your history’s all in line

    Ain’t it funny how I used to wonder
    How could sucha lovely girl give me love
    Oh oh, oh oh oh yeah yeah

    Black girl, your ancestry’s long
    Black girl, you’re where you belong
    Black girls have got to be strong
    Got to keep your spirits high
    Got to keep yourselves alive
    You’re just gonna make it fine

    Listen babay, you’re the jeleof my eye
    Come on girl everything’s gonna be alright
    Listen baby, I just got to make you mine…

  • jenny lynn walker

    Love it!

  • jenny lynn walker

    CHARLES: Get out of the house a bit okay? And by house I imply your own hang-ups about what people should and shouldn’t be. It’s the 21st century after all. I have lived and travelled in 60 countries and thankfuly, rarely come across people like you. Wishing you a great day!

  • okay…Brian…given that you

    “just saw that there is a huge number of black women out there who are trying to pursue modeling and so few who actually make it. this discrepancy seems more pronounced with black women perhaps than other races, and also suggests more of systemic bias. in fact, behind white women, black women make up largest group of women pursuing modeling (at least in the NYC area), yet their opportunities for success are infinitely smaller. we don’t see many of them on the runway or in the pages of magazines, so i thought why not see who they are for myself.”

    Why wouldn’t you photograph black women who would have a strong chance at becoming models if the industry were color blind? Your words say you wanted to know more about these black women, the ones we don’t, but should (according to the parameters of beauty in media, minus skin color), see on runways, in magazines. Why didn’t you photograph THESE black women? Instead, you photographed hopefuls without much likelihood for fulling the dream of “strutting along the runway with cameras flashing, being a spokesmodel for the latest line of make-up, or being plastered on billboards in Times Square, etc.” and not the black women that the billboards would hold in a less discriminatory world.

    This is my difficulty with the work. I think to be a coherent conceptual piece in the same vein in which is visually presented, it needed to be stated that this was about hopefuls with big dreams and small chance of ever ‘making it’, regardless of their race.

    But, if this is instead about finding out who the black women are who would be modeling in the mainstream in a less discriminatory world, as you state, then the essay should have photographed those women, the ones who meet industry standards of beauty, skin color aside.

    As it stands, I think you muddled the two thoughts, and it makes your photographic motives appear not just opportunistic (which I am not pinning on you as an individual as opportunism is often photography’s somewhat unfortunate but hard to shake cousin, even for the best intentioned), but additionally questionable, ie opportunism via using a specific race / demographic, and then also insincere, because it is couched in terms of you shedding light on a situation, as well as helping them with their dreams.

    If you had presented this essay EXACTLY as you did visually, still with only black girls, but with a statement about the girls more as ‘wannabes’ (and I do not wish to be cruel, the girls are all lovely but for the most part not industry material, but neither is 99% of the world’s population) you would have still created equally stimulating work which was conceptually solid, and you would not have appeared like you are trying to say one thing and do another.

    If you had photographed a different sector of black girls, those with serious modeling potential, still as portraits and with the same statement as you gave, you would have provided the audience with a realistic framework in which to hold your words, and the piece would be high level portraiture which allows the viewer greater understanding of the individual, and through the individual, the whole.

    Do you see what I am saying?

  • Out there in the real world the controversy will be a hiccup and people will just move on and the audience runs the show. They will manipulate , twist it, love it hate it and in the majority the will not be bothered to look.

  • i understand but disagree. as someone pointed out before, if you look at the women on shows like america’s next top model, the women are pretty average looking, and what gives them that model look is all the production, like make-up, hair, wardrobe, hi-end fashion photography etc. i am often shocked at the women that they chose. some i would dare say are actually unattractive. that was not my approach, i was not trying to produce a fashion shoot like that. and i think that is why people maybe are having a problem with it. i’m not a good fashion photographer. my approach was more simple, often just me, the model, the camera, and sometimes a light. she did all her own hair and make-up and wardrobe.

    whether someone looks like a model or not is rather subjective and the modeling world perhaps doesn’t even have an obvious paradigm as to how they chose models. i think that you may have a specific idea in your head as to what a model should look like and since these women do not fit that conception, you think they have no chance. plenty of other people have commented that these women are beautiful. so perhaps they don’t fit your idea of beauty? plus the modeling world is a vast place, with space for lots of different looks and sizes. i think for some reason people are fixated on them as only potential high fashion, runway models, which was never my intention, and perhaps i didn’t make that clear in the statement.

  • imants you’re probably right.

  • Those of you who have specific ideas about how Brian should have conceived and executed this piece, or ideas about how you would have done it if you were him, or want to dictate the actions he must take in order for you to find him an acceptable human being; I suspect if he were to do it in any of the ways you you have directed, it would end up being a dishonest piece. As is, I believe it. Strikes me as true.

    And if I didn’t feel I at least somewhat know some of you, I’d say the hostility an derision that has been shown here regarding these women is just plain pathological. As is, I have to believe some of you, though inherently decent people wanting to do the right thing, live such extremely segregated lives that you get your notions of “black” people from watching re-runs of Flavor of Love. I mean honestly, you shouldn’t speak so vehemently about that which you do not know. Imagine if someone looked at a picture of you and assumed you were a brainless zombie slut, largely because you were white, and assumed you lived in a trailer park in south podunk? What would you think of that person? What would you think of the motives behind those derisive beliefs? Would you respect his or her opinion?

  • No, it’s not that I don’t see the women as beautiful, quite the opposite, but I have enough first and secondhand knowledge of the modeling world (at the level your statement indicated: runway, billboard, spokesperson, high fashion) to know that despite the truth that beauty or the “it” factor is something of a ‘je ne sais quoi’, I know it when I see it, and I would suspect you would too. But perhaps not, and maybe you are also right that you were not clear about what type of market you meant. The market you say the girls are interested in (runway, billboard, spokesperson, high fashion) is not a friendly, inclusive market and even eyecandy and art nudes may not be attainable for each of them. I wish the girls all the best in meeting their dreams, and I do hope the discussion has helped with regard to photographer responsibility and all that…

  • erica are you insinuating that i’m somehow irresponsible? given what i said before it’s not obvious to me that i would ‘know it when i see it.’ i’m severely lacking in that area, but perhaps your are more keen as to what true models look like? well you’ve helped to prove my thesis, which is that the modeling industry itself is not inclusive. what particular market i do or do not mention is of quite secondary importance to the broader project.

  • Absolutely it is not inclusive, I wasn’t arguing in favor for values of the market. I was responding to your comment “the modeling world is a vast place, with space for lots of different looks and sizes.” I was just saying that unfortunately, it really isn’t that vast.

    Personally, I was reading this entire thread as an examination of photographer responsibility. I thought that what was up for discussion. I am not insinuating anything, except that each of us as photographers needs to be aware of the motives behind and the effects of our work.

  • RE: what you wrote above – “but hey it was nice to hear your thoughts and concerns about it, because being challenged does force one to think through what they’re doing and why more deeply. i thank you for that!”

    aren’t thinking through what one is doing, and why one is doing it, issues of responsibility?

  • each of us as photographers needs to be aware of the motives behind and the effects of our work.

    Absolutely. I don’t have any problems with the questions about Brian’s, or anybody’s, work, it’s just that some of the answers people came up with were not the least bit supported by the available facts. Particularly the personal attacks.

  • “I’ve traveled to sixty countries….”

    Honestly that’s one of the most egotistical and clueless things I’ve read yet. And if I need to explain why then I feel really really sad for you. A big passive/aggressive great day! to you too.


    btw Jenny, where’s the link to your work? step up to the plate…

  • yes at the barnes and noble newsstand and ny fashion week level the modeling industry isn’t very vast, it’s miniscule. but there is more out there to modeling than w, vogue, and bryant park runways.

  • clearly…I was only going on the references you specified in your statement.

  • just stepping in to follow Michael Webster’s brilliant re-cap

  • though, this is more appropriate :)))

  • jenny lynn walker

    Erica: Thanks for your thoughts. I get the feeling that a phenomenon was simply identiied and a way chosen to document it. I don’t think the idea is to gain much understanding of the individual but to make a statement about the nature of the industry itself and the people wrapped up in the pursuit of fame and celebrity.

    If it is true that black women are massively under-represented in the fashion world, then it is an interesting phenomenon at a time when black people and black culture appears to be growing in popularity in the USA and with a black president in office in these times too. The expressions on the faces somehow mirror the nature of the whole reality of the industry too (certainly as I personally view it) and these are women obsessed with fame and celebrity, no?

    I do get the feeling that they are being ‘used’. On the one hand, the focus on their bodies mirrors the nature of the business, straight, no frills, and the lack of further information about their lives or any attempt to document their situations too. The focus is on them, their bodies, no more which certainly tells it like it is – ie. reflects what they have to give to be a part of it. Entirely sick though it all appears.

    Sorry for being so verbose. I generally stick to very limited comments on these essasy as on, and to where I’m headed, Pastures New. I hope some of these women find their dreams come true.

  • Charles:

    “I think Brian’s one mistake on here, and it’s a common one, was over-stating the socio-political agenda of the photographs in his text. Really, if he had just said this is a slice of a sub-group of women, those pursuing amateur modeling, and that he chose black women solely in order to make the essay more focused and dynamic and doable (after all isn’t the DAH credo), and then left the conclusions up to the viewer, that might have been better. But as it is the photographs stand, and they are powerful and complex and the fact that they stir so many emotions attests to their importance and validity.”

    I totally agree!



  • Michael Webster

    I do sooo hate commenters talking about others in third person..Honestly, i think it is very cowardly to opine that some of us are downright pathological and live such segregated lives that we wouldn’t know a real black person if one came up and slapped us upside our curvaceous butts. So, who are you talking to exactly? Tell us so that those you are slamming have a right to respond without looking totally paranoid. Really, now it’s my turn to say that you have gone too far.


  • Michael

    oh right…you said that if you didn’t at least ‘somewhat’ know us better you would think we were pathological..oh ok, that’s quite different, uh-huh…sheesh…now your comment is not only cowardly but patronizing. WHO are you talking about, Michael? Damn, i thought i was finished here..

  • Kathleen, I’m talking about those who wrote derogatory things about Brian’s subjects. I find it kinder not to name names since I trust the basic goodness of those who made those kind of statements. I see no evil here, but no perfection either. And perhaps I’m wrong when I speculate the cause is related to segregation and media influence, but that’s the best explanation I can think of that fits the facts as I know them. How would you explain it?

  • Brian

    Ya know..i just looked at Jodi Bieber’s work. At first i was thinking, “no, no, this work is different..not at all the same” But i found that articulating that was not so easy. The boundaries between your work and hers began to blur…so i left her work on one screen and opened your essay in another and played it through for the umpteenth time. This time there occurred a subtle shift in my thinking and in my heart..i suddenly began feeling these women, the realness of them, what they were trying to say through you. I originally resented what i felt were your own projections imposed upon them. i fought my position hard. But i have to say that this is the first time on Burn that i have tilt-shifted 180 degrees on an essay. I really like this essay now. I truly do. I love each and every one of these women. i love the soul and feeling i see in every pair of eyes with #15 touching my heart probably the most. Yes, this is a wonderful essay. Does it have its flaws? the whole demographic thing nags at me, the lack of variety the heavy focus on flesh..but if these women truly feel underrated in today’s society, specifically in the modeling industry, then i can understand their desire to celebrate their physicality before the camera. I now get what Bob and Charles and Michael and others have been saying. I also believe Erica, Jenny and i have brought up extremely valid points as well. But at least now i no longer feel these women are tragic or exploited. I am happy to have “met” them here through your eyes. Best of luck, Brian and thanks for taking the time and energy to discuss your work ad nauseum.

    Michael..i still think your comments re:pathological and so on were out of line but i am really done here so don’t bother naming names unless someone else wants to know who you meant. It’s just not important to me at this point.


  • Michael

    Gosh, Michael..i don’t know..being kind means talking to a person directly so i think you could have done that even if it was a bit prickly. I don’t think there was a person here who didn’t care about these women. Some cared so intensely (Jenny and i) that we were perhaps overly protective and cynical about Brian’s motives. I think unless a commenter is horribly malicious there is room to ask them exactly what they mean, why they feel that way. You can give a good example that way..trying to see it through their eyes instead of finding so much fault. That Brian sincerely asked me for my opinion of Jodi’s essay made me want to actually have an opinion on work i had not yet seen. And lo and behold i got it..not just hers, but Brian’s. It doesn’t mean my original opinions verged on the pathological just that my intense reaction needed time and great thought to be resolved. Anyway, you are usually extremely respectful (far more than i am, heh!) and i appreciate that so take care and keep writing..i always find much of interest in your comments.


  • Kathleen.
    Wow. What an intersting ride this has been.

    I’m reminded of your reaction to Daria’s work. Body image, female sexuality, seems to be a hot button.

  • Gordon

    Nah, i didn’t like Daria’s because i am not a fan of photoshopped fantasy, especially of the female self-portrait type..haha, not changing my mind about that one! :))


  • and it makes me hurt inside for every gloriously elegant, smart and beautiful black woman i have ever known/seen all the way from Michelle Obama to my daughter´s roommate

    catching on with what has been written. Kathleen, did these smart women, Michelle O, or your daughter’s roommate try to be models? There might be some criticism for the demographics brian operated in, which favored a caricaturized view, at least for some of you. OK, fine, good point for discussion, but let’s stick to his subject, which is about black (american) women wishing to enter the modeling profession.

  • Hi Herve

    Please see my more recent Gordon said, this has been somewhat of a wild ride..for me at least.

    and now it’s time to bid goodnight

    take care

    If you can’t paint them in a positive light…………… and some of them, strong and independent-minded women although not captured that way in these photographs.
    Then, how were you able to see that, jenny, that they are strong and independant-minded, if it did not come out of the pictures? You actually validated Brian’s work, with this comment. It is not uncommon that photographs can reveal much more than the “sum of the parts” in the frame. It’s actually the definiton of a damned good photograph.

    I do not think Brian could have elicited that comment from you if he had confined these young women within the parameters of his delusions about women and the sexism he is accused of. If they were only, as you say, sexual objects. Obviously, your comment tells us there is more than meets the eye.

  • BTW, jenny, thanks for the good luck words, yesterday. I started the week-end with an insult and finished with one of DAH’s coveted camera bags.

    More, please, I want a M9! ;-)

  • Michael..i still think your comments re:pathological and so on were out of line…

    Yes, that was poor word choice. Sorry.

  • Thanks everybody, it’s been an interesting and insightful discussion. And thanks to Brian and mostly to the 22 models, without them there wouldn’t be nothing to talk about in the first place.

    I have not changed my mind about the work, nor the conundrums of the WHY behind are any clearer to me. I do think that a lot has to do with society, with expectations, and with the lack of strenght to go against someone elses expectations to please others, instead of oneself.

    To me, there’s both in this essay: those women who have attitude, kick ass and just do what they feel like for themselves, and those who do it to please others. At least that is how they come through, very difficult to say by just one picture of each one, but that’s all I have. One thing is for sure: it’s not up to me to judge either reason behind the why.

    Thanks again!

  • jenny lynn walker

    Brian: I have asked Jodi to take a look at your essay and hope she’ll respond with her thoughts on it. I stand by my comments and believe it would have been best done by the women themselves, or by a woman, and not in return for a ‘fashion-style image’ for their portfolio. I have not made one comment to her on any of this and hope she will reply. Apologies to you for not asking you more direct questions. This was my mistake.

    Kathleen: I am beginning to feel the same as Brian having read your last comment, in that I don’t much like people telling me how I am feeling or what my motives are but I can see it is coming from a very good heart. It is nice to meet you.

    I hope that some of the rude and harsh comments I wrote to some Burnians over these past two days will be seen for what they were: close replicas of the comments they threw out to me mostly. I am not sure it is the way to harmony and peace but I understand psychiatrists do it – perhaps there are some people on here who are in a position to clarify this? Couldn’t resist saying this. Apologies for my quirky sense of humour.

    Wishing all Burnians a wonderful day. Love to all. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

  • jenny lynn walker

    Herve: Perhaps not respectful to go off-topic? I feel with 100% certainty you’ll be receiving lots more insults in future in return for the way you deliver some of your comments – you certainly will from me if you continue to speak to me in that way. But, equally, I’m sure you’ll get lots of camera bags if you keep writing good captions for DAH: “the whole Gulf is getting drenched in oil, and Martin Parr is shooting tourists!” (newsworthy AND hysterical to interchange DAH with Martin Parr – loved it!) and “David, maybe we should get the children out of the van first!” also hysterical and, believable (in an honest but humorous way) too.

  • a couple of responses from the models:

    from kira (#16):

    from ava (#8):
    “Very nice. I like it :-)”

  • JENNY…

    you asked after reading my comment:

    “I didn’t understand your comment about expressing with sexual content and about white males are in a minority in the art world? Could you explain?

    Re. the posing. Are you talking about black Americans? ”

    the whole comment was all about answering these questions, with very specific examples….how you miss it..????? ..although i did not say white males, i specified straight white males in the context of photographing sexuality in general and black women and their sexuality in particular i.e. Brian…please re-read so i do not have to write it all over again..

  • Jenny

    ¨I don’t much like people telling me how I am feeling or what my motives are¨ In the future i will take care not to lump your meat with my potatoes on the same plate. And yes, it was nice meeting you as well :)


  • Michael:

    No hard feelings whatsoever..thanks for the says a lot about the kind of person that you are.


    It´s nice to know your models like your photos. Not sure that helps your argument too much since it still seems a shame to me that all these women chose to express themselves with their booty except perhaps #22 (who if she was a small kitten i´d surely take her home). Jodi´s project was about all different types of physical beauty and she encouraged fantasy as a way for these women to evoke and express their individual beauty. Your project was about modeling and the under-representation of black women in that industry which leads me to think that you choose to shoot these women with an eye to what the industry is missing by not utilizing black women on the runway, in commericals, in lingerie ads, and everywhere else models are used. But both you and these women went one route only. So although i really like the essay, love your shooting, thrill to the beauty and eloquence of these ladies i still fault it for the lack of variety. What you´ve done says either that you really had another agenda that you´ve dressed up in sheep´s clothing (i.e. your artist´s statment) or else your models sadly are so unappreciated in the modeling industry that through overstating their qualifications they hope someone will actually see them for the glorious ladies that they are. I love the essay, truly, i just wish for clarity. And i know i won´t get it. So…well…good luck!!!!!!


  • ¨leads me to think that you choose to shoot these women ¨

    sorry..i meant, ¨leads me to think that you would have chosen to shoot these women¨



    just here for a few minutes and saw your comment…you are asking for “variety”…are you asking for variety of poses, or variety of races, exactly what kind of variety?? you have probably already mentioned this before ,but i have missed some of this conversation…i cannot speak for Brian of course, but i might be able to help if i know which kind of variety..come back in 15 mins

  • kathleen
    you and others are getting hung up on the specific industries within modeling that i mentioned. i never intended to illustrate each of those areas for the essay, so that this picture is of a model who wants to do runway, this picture is of a model who wants to do lingerie, etc. that may be my fault and i am thinking about tweaking the statement accordingly. my main interest actually was in anthropology (reality, e.g. have them in real environments, no/little make-up, using their own wardrobe, etc) meets fantasy (of who they want to be/how they represent themselves as models). but everything else i said in the statement still holds true, but perhaps i need to shift the statement’s focus.

  • kathleen
    you’ve got to look beyond the booty to see things more deeply. and jodi’s project, nice though it is, is not about all different types of beauty. all but one or two are obviously very overweight or morbidly obese!! how is that diversity?

    and as i suspected there is a glaring double standard here: it’s ok for a woman to shoot women in a sexualized way, that somehow contributes to a deeper understanding of the female experience, but not a man, a man can only objectify the female.

  • David

    Variety of modeling..i love the black woman theme, have accepted the demographic (i like that narrow slice), am fine with the settings..but what still nags at me is that if the essay is about modeling and if the modeling industry encompasses sooo many different areas, then why did Brian and these women focus on sheer physicality? as opposed to any one of a hundred different ways that models are used?


    Yes, that may be what´s bugging the hell out of me. When i brought up Michelle Obama and my daughter´s room-mate Herve argued that neither of these women were or wanted to be models so they didn´t count. And he was right…he brought the discussion back to the essay and that´s good that he did. Because i said, oh right, right, kathie, it´s about MODELING..but then why such a one-sided view of modeling? So that stimulated a lot of other reactions in me which actually blinded me to the really fine qualities of your essay and how truly amazing these women´s all in their eyes and their mouths..their skin, their everything..their hips, legs, arms, their GLOW!!! I missed all that because i got so hung up on the statement about modeling. I can be way too literal sometimes…like what i was reading was not what i was getting and i was just so sad for those women instead of celebrating their beauty!

    ok..well, i´ve about beat this horse to death…LOL…great job, Brian…i mean it!


  • Brian

    Well, it´s true of course what you´s a slippery slope for a man to shoot women in a sensual way as David pointed out yesterday. Except for a few women, Jodi´s ladies do not conform to the usual standards of beauty. But she shot all women who came to her. I don´t know what your selection process begin with you went to modeling websites and i don´t know how many you may have disqualified. Jodi didn´t select. She advertised and shot those who responded. Her diversity was limited to that group. Jodi could have kept advertising until she had selected a group that pleased her. But from what i read that´s not how she did it. So there´s a difference, Brian. She wasn´t projecting her ego or fantasies through her subjects the way most men do when they shoot women. Exception being Panos´black women and also the artist Jorge March that i mentioned earlier. I don´t see that as a double standard. They are two different projects, no?

    And yes, i totally agree that to see the true beauty of your women one must look past the booty. But you gave us booty so how many are going to look past it? I finally did but it took me a hell of a lot of struggle to get there.



    ok, i get it…well, after all this discussion , it seems that mostly what Brian needs to do is change his text just a bit rather than re-shoot…you like what he has done, you just do not like what he said he was doing..isn’t that correct ?his statement of purpose is what really seems to have some steamed up…well, that is an easy fix and one that Brian should do…while i do honestly believe Brian’s motives are as he says, it is just too hard a mountain for some women to climb..the essay pushes all the wrong buttons, when in fact the solution is with words rather than with pictures…not to placate the “steamed” at all, but just to set himself up on the highest artistic grounds…

    and here is why he needs to do it:

    again, not speaking for Brian but hopefully helping him think about a slight re-phrase, i think in general “variety” leans us in the directions of “explanation” and “information” and could then lead towards “encyclopedic” which then takes us right out of having any artistic merit whatsoever…fair, righteous, and boring….a catalog …ho hum…..variety of anything is almost an immediate disqualifier artistically because it subtracts point of view, authorship….i am not talking about journalism, where you do need variety, information, explanation…but in the kind of documentary that Brian is doing, which is one powerfull essay!!! if it were not POWERFUL it would not generate 300 comments….people do not hate what they do not love…… Brians work is another thing entirely…and that is the whole problem with this discussion..journalistic parameters are being placed on something that is not traditionally journalistic and Brian needs to tweak his statement accordingly imo…again, tweak…not reinvent…

    hope this helps…goodnight

    cheers, david

  • kathleen
    wow you are really putting up a fight on this. you won’t give up! kudos! it’s ALL selection, from the idea, to how you find people, to the final selection of images that are presented. it’s all part of the process. i hardly believe all her subjects came up with the same idea: how about you shoot me at home in my lingerie, preferably in my bedroom or living room? that was her idea. and i am absolutely fine with that. so you’re point, with all due respect, is silly. selection is simply what we all do as creators, artists, photographers, select out things from the world based on our ideas. we must select and chose if we have an idea.

  • About this all that has been going on on Brian’s essay. BURN is a positive space, should be at least I think.

    My own M.O., on essays, has always been “if you (me!) only have to say something negative, shut up!”. We are not critics or reviewers, we are people sharing a passion, and should always appreciate that someone who shares that passion with us, worked hard at an essay.

    Just to barge in and tell the essayist what he or she’s done amounts to sexist work (for Brian) or more generally, that it’s failed (implying that David failed BURN byselecting that essay), well, that’s stuff we don’t need here. we all need support, we all need encouragement, not accusations and righteous stands.

    Criticism is OK of course, but within this parameter of supporting and encouraging the one person who put out (funny also that the ones that negates the most are the ones we see so little, if nothing, of what they do, on BURN, where a link is always easy to add to a post).

    Not being professional reviewers or critics, remember that what we write often tells others more about us than the subject or the photographer we write on.

  • remember that what we write often tells others more about us than the subject or the photographer we write on…………hmmnnn so that means they all know I like cute ladies in the snow

  • That won’t be held against you, Imants! ;-)

  • Herve:



    I like the essay, i like the statement. I do not like the essay WITH the statement. Here´s what Charles Peterson said yesterday and i whole-heartedly agree, as i do with what you also said:

    ¨I think Brian’s one mistake on here, and it’s a common one, was over-stating the socio-political agenda of the photographs in his text. Really, if he had just said this is a slice of a sub-group of women, those pursuing amateur modeling, and that he chose black women solely in order to make the essay more focused and dynamic and doable (after all isn’t the DAH credo), and then left the conclusions up to the viewer, that might have been better. But as it is the photographs stand, and they are powerful and complex and the fact that they stir so many emotions attests to their importance and validity.¨

    I absolutely agree that to catalog women who want to model would be a total loser as an essay. So if Brian has a vision then it is HIS right and HIS mandate as an artist to accomplish that vision. Which i believe he has done in spades. But don´t give us a bunch of baloney that he´s like doing this anthropological-fantasy thing to show how black women are under-represented in the modeling industry. Because this essay does not show that. It shows Brian´s overwhelmingly artistic vision which finally i was able to see last night. And i cannot believe i am still here trying to get him to understand how much i like the essay and why i like it but why i hate the disconnect between the statement and the photographs.


    I may be silly but you are dense. What i said about Jodi had to do with your comment about her lack of diversity. I said that she shot all comers. So her diversity was limited to those who answered her advertisement. Of course she directed the shoot! Of course her subjects knew what the project was about! She encouraged their fantasies to enable them to overcome whatever hangups they had about their body image. Your projects were two entirely different beasts for heaven´s sake! Read your artist´s statement. Read hers! There´s no double standard at work here. That she shot women in their underwear and got away with it while you, pobrecito, have been fighting an uphill battle with the likes of me for the last 48 hours is because what you said you´d do is not what you did.

    You said: ¨the women photographed are a cross-section of real people who want to do every kind of modeling, from runway, high-end fashion, print or commercial work to eye-candy and artistic nudes. Their interests are varied, as are their looks and beauty¨

    For one thing, your selection was not a cross-section but a very carefully assembled tableau of models who appealed to you for reasons only you know. For another thing, while their interests may be varied, you failed to capture that. You shot booty. And finally, if each has a goal to specialize in different areas of modeling, well, that was also irrelevant as you rode roughshod over whatever their personal modeling specialty may have been.

    Now, i really have some work to do..



  • Brian

    and one last thing..i would NOT care if you shot models with no diversity whatsoever..they could all be six feet tall, bald, flat-chested and body painted green with their legs spread..but have the balls to say that your the artist and this is your vision…don´t tell us that you´re shooting girlscouts who want to be porn stars but nobody will give flat-chested girls a chance..ain´t nobody gonna buy that other than viewers dazzled by the show.


    i like the girl in the snow too..great shot!

  • See, we can agree on something, everybody likes the girl in the snow…. ;-)


    the woman in the snow, Twila, is the only one of Brian’s models who commented here on Burn as well..

  • BRIAN…

    ok, dude listen….

    go make ten to fifteen 6ft by 6ft prints…mount them behind plexi…….you either self publish or mainstream publish a limited edition book or portfolio to go with the exhibition…even two of these in just the right gallery and you are off ….imagine these as super large prints and hanging Gagosian….hit the gallery streets in Chelsea …NOW….do it!!

    all of the controversy surrounding this work will only fire up the galleries to want to hang them…these pictures obviously push everyone’s buttons…different buttons..that is the point…Herve lusts after Twila in the snow…Kathleen is infuriated by the booty personified..all good did not create this controversy…this controversy exits…..all the time…everywhere….you have simply brought it to the table with your artistry ….even Kathleen agrees the pictures are sexy…..if you can legitimize sexy with your overall cred, then you are on it all around…so stand tall…take the hits….tweak your text….

    the result will be, you will make a mark..the women photographed will bring their parents, cousins, and nieces to the show and be very proud…they will have become way more than what they ever imagined….the discussion surrounding it will educate one and all at panel discussions and in the press……for everyone in every direction has blinders….that is pretty clear….

    you are a clear headed intelligent sensitive young man and Kathleen is a clear headed intelligent sensitive young woman…on any other subject you two would most likely be arm in arm…probably have the same stance on Afghanistan, the environment, civil rights, and politics in general….

    right now just imagine the “Twila in Snow” 6ft x 6ft with perfectly lit and mounted 4 inches off the wall..surrounded by 9 or 10 others….two or three flat screen tvs looping the videos you will do of these women talking about their lives…New York’s literati in abundance…..i can see it now….and you and Kathleen sharing a fine bottle of champagne and both laughing heartily as you walk off to the private dinner for the artist and his friends, that by now i will of course have to pay for…..

    cheers, david

  • Ha, I thought I was done, but last night my wife noticed the “Black Girl” photo on the main page as I was looking at Burn on the laptop in the living room. She had seen it several times before over the past few days and finally asked me what’s up with that? She is not a photographer and mostly sees photography as a deep dark hole in which I throw money, but she does have some understanding of the African diaspora in New York she is generally insightful on social and political issues, so I thought she’d find it interesting. I gave her a brief synopsis of Brian’s statement, put the slideshow on full screen and handed her the laptop.

    So here’s one reaction from a non-photographer. Her first comment was that it was ghetto. She also felt it was sad because, in her opinion, the models had unrealistic expectations. I asked a few questions related to the discussions here. She believed that Brian had portrayed the women as they wanted to be portrayed, but felt he had some involvement in the way they were posed as well. Along those lines, she was a little uncomfortable about the ways in which she felt the women had been used.

    Meanwhile, my parents — conservative, church going senior citizens from a small town in the midwest who are neither photographers or knowledgeable about art — are in town and are sitting in the same room and getting frustrated to know what the hell we are talking about. So I put the laptop on the table and play the slideshow for them. Their reaction is mostly “look, boobies!!!” and my dad comments that it would make a wonderful calendar.

    So interestingly, at least a very small sample of civilians had essentially the same reactions as many of the photographers among us.

    Then, I’m thinking wow, photography is actually holding their attention, so I play the “Feastday” essay, curious to see what they would think of such a fine current example of classic B&W photography. It held their interest for about two slides and they had quit watching it altogether by the fifth.

    So perhaps the lesson is this for holding the attention of non-photographers: use color and show skin. Of course beautiful scenery and cute animals are popular as well. Add it all up and that’s why I think we are mostly fine with audiences that at least have some understanding and appreciation of art.


    your little family experiment absolutely proves my comment above which was posted simultaneous…take the demographic wider than your family and well, you can imagine…it is like a calendar…only a parody of a calendar…the one where one averts one’s eyes as its hangs in the garage of your car mechanic, but is now front and center…..

    by the way, Johanie who is on the front page of Burn has now been viewed by way more people than had she been on the cover of Vogue…so minus the money she has actually become a model…she has arrived…she has had way more than her 15 minutes and the others not far behind….

    again, for better or worse, this essay fires everyone up….no essay has ever fired up the crowd here like this one…i am not championing i am just publishing….and i can see what i can see….and i photograph black women all the time, publish their pictures all the time in major magazines, but nothing i have done has fired the cannons like these….i do not know what this says about human nature, but i sure as hell know a hit when i see one…..

    please know that being popular does not make anything necessarily better…most often these days absolutely the reverse…but through the centuries “art” was intended to sate the masses…appeal….Shakespeare was playing to the drunks off the street, and Van Gogh was trying to sell some prints….maybe Brian can walk the fine line…we will see…

  • Yes David, I saw your comment immediately after posting. I hope Brian takes your advice. This has been one of the more, if not the most, interesting conversations I’ve seen here. I’d love to see it taken to a wider audience.

  • kathleen
    i underestimated how literally aspects of the essay, like their interests in different areas of modeling, would be taken by some people, and be so hard for them to see past that. again my fault.

    sounds like a plan, but now all i need are the contacts.

    very interesting. again, i think some of your wife’s (and other people’s) response may partly be how white people (i apologize if you’re not white) see brown and black skinned people. but hey i’m happy she was engaged! and yes i was involved, i say that in the post script.

  • kathleen
    my statement is what it is. i’m not lying or deceiving anyone, as have suggested many a time. i’m sorry, there’s no evil motive here, but seems like you wish there were.

  • david
    i am having 25 20×20 pictures from black girl exhibited at the manege central exhibition hall in st petersburg russia in september, i believe.

  • Brian,, just to be clear, I wasn’t offering that little anecdote as a criticism, more as a response to something Imants said in the other thread regarding how non-photographers see our work. And I thought it interesting in light of this discussion.

    again, i think some of your wife’s (and other people’s) response may partly be how white people (i apologize if you’re not white) see brown and black skinned people.

    And that brings me back full circle to my very first comment. I’ve always trusted you portrayed the women as they wanted to be portrayed, but I’ve always been skeptical that you were able to see them as they wanted to be seen. Your comment that I italicized above reinforces that belief. I mean no offense by that, btw. How many of are able to see others as they’d like to be seen? Am I? The only thing I can say for sure is “not entirely.” Anyway, if you want to go any deeper than that, we’ll have to discuss it off-line sometime. I’ll certainly be there for your opening in Chelsea.

  • jenny lynn walker

    Kathleen: I was disappointed a few days ago to hear you appear to be crumbling under the pressure of the ‘sexist establishment’ (albeit under a thinly-disguised veneer of artistic liberalism) but feel relieved to hear you have your sassy tell-it-like-it-is hat on again! Thank heaven for that.

    Brian: I honestly believe you would engage a far larger audience – across all sectors of society – if you could find models who would spread their legs and take their underwear off. If you were to hang those images in the gallery (make them really big), the gallery windows will be smashed but hey, you’ll get even more press coverage, may get to be arrested, and probably famous far more quickly! Then how about a series on mass murderers? You could dig up the victims and photograph them. No, that’s a rediculous idea because it’s been done already – AS HAS THIS like 1,000,000,000 times before and every day, which is why so many women are sick and tired of it.

  • Jenny how do you look in the snow??

  • jenny lynn walker

    DAH: I’m good at firing up discussions – glad to hear that Burn is benefitting from it. Thank you for the offer of contacts for the work from Thailand. If you would email them to me, it would be great. : )


    ¨so stand tall…take the hits….tweak your text¨

    A perfectly phrased 9 word synopsis, David..exactly my point! EEEHAWWW someone gets it!!! Brian´s essay is tremendous for all of the above. But his statement sinks it like a stone and defeats all of his vision and hard work. Brian, LISTEN to this man! Stop crying like a baby and become an artist. I am rooting you on probably more than anyone. But you´re so busy denying and defending meaningless details you don´t see the big picture. You have 22 wonderful photos, you have such a unique vision into this subject that i think you are wasting your time over-emphasizing the modeling schtick. Jettison the, as Chris Peterson said, overly socio-economic Pj mumbo-jumbo..or at least make it a post script in fine print on the last page of the exhibit catalog. Both you and these ladies have proven you can stand on your own. So do just exactly that. GO FOR IT!


    ¨i’m sorry, there’s no evil motive here, but seems like you wish there were.¨

    Please don´t ruin the moment.


    I wasn´t capitualizing the other night. I had an epiphany about this essay as i watched Jodi´s and Brian´s side-by-side. I was finally able to see Brian´s artistic forest for the undergrowth of his artist´s statement. I said i loved it, but with caveats having to do with the demographic and the lack of variety. I then considered deeply the demographic and was ok with that but the artist´s statement still stuck in my craw. I only hope Brian resolves this last issue so that women especially, can avoid the sinkhole of victimizing these beautiful ladies. Many women will not work as hard to appreciate this work as ART if they become mired in what they see as Brian´s exploitation.

    Must work now..thanks everyone! Micheal Webster..thanks for sharing your wife´s and parents´ reactions. It really does bolster David´s summary. GO FOR IT, BRIAN!



    I think you are getting a bit hung up on semantics vs the images themselves. Yes, it may be a misstep on Brian’s part, but also one of the reasons I rarely read the essays on here, or at least read them after viewing the photos.

    Keep in mind as far as choice of models, I’m sure Brian selected those who would work with him, and this probably excludes the upper echelons of black models. Even amateurs get between $200-500/day – that would make Brian’s essay cost him out of pocket in the $5K – $10K region. Now knowing the economics of being a freelance photographer I’m pretty sure Brian got those who would volunteer their services for prints in exchange. As it is, I don’t know if you’ve ever produced 22 different photo shoots for a single essay but it is a feat. Jenny’s constant pipe dream that somebody else would have done this better (her?) is insulting whether you like the photos or not. Brian did it, brought his signature style to it, and I’m sure it wasn’t just a whim over one weekend. And I have a feeling most of these girls were probably pretty damned pleased with the final results.

    An aside: this shoot I did for a German clothing company, I needed four models. One who applied was a young black girl I thought would be perfect. The client rejected her because she was too small for the clothes. Ironic thing is that the clothes they sent were all too small for the final choice of models, and they complained in no end about the model chosen instead of the black girl. Personally I think they rejected her because she was black but my hands were tied. In the end it was to the clients detriment they didn’t choose the spunky black girl instead of the mopey white one. And these weren’t “prefect” models by any means, just Craigs List amateurs. So the racism does exist. How to portray that actual racism in a photograph is beyond me, albeit Brian’s text.

    And ps: you might want to distance yourself from Jenny. What she wrote above is downright insulting to us all.


    Interesting about your parents. Goes to show how dynamic these photos are. The Feast photos are very nice photos, but they are also quite old fashioned, and made for photographers. Brian’s photos are unique and very engaging, if nothing else.


    If you don’t like the people here (ie “the sexist establishment”), why don’t you change the channel? Aren’t you in BKK? Get off the internet and go out and get a massage (or two), take a ride up the Chao Praya, go to Chinatown and get some killer food. There’s also a fantastic little island in the south called Koh Bulon with no cars, internet, etc. Check it out. Seriously. You are out of your depth here, and as Imants writes “remember that what we write often tells others more about us than the subject or the photographer we write on…………”



  • Another view of modeling in today’s NY TIMES

    “they want to see different kinds of bodies…”
    yeah, as long as they are tall and thin

  • Charles

    First of all..eeks…sorry for calling you Chris up above..just saw my error and am sure you saw it too. Thanks for graciously not calling me on it.

    Second…¨And I have a feeling most of these girls were probably pretty damned pleased with the final results.¨…OHMYGOD, i LOVE this essay, Charles! You probably didn´t pick that up but i really came around and think it´s amazing. I love every model..and even if some of the photos are not as effective for me, i cannot criticize Brian because overall there is great thought, hard work and most important, creative consistency. It is very clear to me that Brian has a vision and wow, every detail, right down to the mop by the door, the wrinkles in¨the ¨mermaid dress¨(which glows like she just emerged from the sea into that parking lot) to the sort of awkward placement of the feet in the snow picture which makes it seem that the model had just at that moment turned around to look into the camera, to the sincere and powerful expressions in the model´s eyes ..everything just works so well. If i am getting hung up on semantics, probably true too, but his artist statement truly twisted my viewing experience into something 180 degrees from where it should/could have been. Part my fault, part his but if he tweaked his statement as DAH suggested i believe he could very much enhance the viewing experience by not leading the viewer down a garden path.

    Third..what an experience with that shoot. I am sure you were very frustrated by not being able to call the shots you were more experienced to call correctly. I also feel bad for the ´spunky´ black girl who lost out on the job. She could easily have been #1 or 4 or 12 or 22 in Brian´s essay. It does sort of break your heart to think how many talented minorities don´t have a chance in hell to rise above racial bias. Even here in Costa Rica which is really race-blind to a great extent..i noticed a new ad on my IP´s home page and there are 5 young models. 3 of the models are blond look as American as apple pie. One has slightly darker hair but still very white and only ONE has black hair and a slightly tanner complexion. This is not at all what Costa Rica is about and everytime i see this bias in advertising here i cringe. So Brian gave these women a voice and as DAH also noted, a great deal of ´exposure´, ahem..i really am so pleased to see this essay here and i hope Brian is able to take this to other venues.

    Fourth..the other thing..mmmm…i was new here once and wow, i also went through the wringer..hahaha, i recall i first tangled with the Texan (whatever happened to him anyway?) and then it was Herve..Civi and Gracie gave me safe harbor over in ¨dialogue¨ while i nursed my wounds because i sure didn´t have the chutzpah to stand up to the baptism by fire i experienced. But it made me a stronger person and wow, i am so very happy i stayed. Maybe things will settle down once this essay has scrolled down a bit. I can only give Jenny the same chance you all gave me to earn my right to Burn with the best :))

    Great talking to you, Charles..have a very good day!


  • DAH Brian all –

    to clarify my own perspective, the photos themselves do not ‘press my buttons’ or fire me up – my concern was for the incongruities between the written and the visual and the possible negative implications.

  • Despite having read (most of) the 300-odd comments, I still have a hard time figuring out why this selection of images is controversial. I read and disregarded Brian’s prose, which as someone pointed out above is the best way to engage the materials on Burn.

    What if these women had not been black but Indian or Korean or some other community not well represented in the modeling industry in the US? Are the pictures too sexy to be documentary? What if Lauren Greenfield had snapped them?

    We photographers (especially on Burn) like to make great claims for our work, or maybe the opportunity to present it on Burn makes us invest it with magical properties. I think artists’ statements should be limited to three lines, no longer than a tweet. It would save considerable expenditure of pseudo-intellectual energy and harangue among the commenters.

    These are fine portraits, which manage to be both sensitive and provocative. There is a touch of pathos, because we have been instructed to believe that these women will never realize their dreams of being models — but “modeling” means lots of things, and who’s to say that they will never have professional opportunities because of their race or background? I just admire the fact that Brian has photographed them so well.

  • Wow. That was fun! I just read through every comment. Every fucking comment! I couldn’t stop. (til I got to the end, heh-heh) Whew… tired eyes, cramped mouse-hand, crick in the neck…etc. Need a drink.

    @Brian Shumway… congrats on being published, and if you ever do as David says and make those monster prints and show them in NY, I’ll be there! I’ll document the night. (for good or for ill!)

    I admit I had that melancholy feeling some others spoke of early on when I first saw the essay. (I look before I read with all essays.) Maybe it was the setting for some of them? Don’t know.

    I then read your statement and began the great journey through the comments and went back and looked again, in a sort of scatter-shot way. I’m with Herve and company. The ladies should be proud to be shown here. They are beautiful… all of them. I see no exploitation. (But then, I am a white dude. So, clearly, what the fuck do I know!) ;^}

    And just so Imants doesn’t think I’m too much of a poser (all talk and no show!) I recently photographed 5 women at the National Gallery of Art in DC. (I have no idea if any of them are aspiring models, though.) ;^}

    Cheers to all.

  • jenny lynn walker

    DAH: Big hug to you and sorry for the drumbeat. And sincere, sincere apologies if I didn’t answer your questions or you felt like we or I am taking you for granted. Thank you for thinking of me doing a similar essay too but I’d rather not because as Patricia said, this whole subject just leaves me feeling unbelievably sad, and angry. I wasn’t brought up in a sexually repressive middle-class/upper middle class environment as Brian was – my family are far more free and open about sex – but I feel great concern for women who are open about their sexuality where there are so many sexually repressed men around. They are putting themselves at risk. Like I said from the beginning, I don’t see black women here. I see women. Women portraying themselves – in hand with a photographer not used to women portraying themselves in such a way – in a way that is sexually appealing to men.

    Brian: I have a couple of questions – why are the models are looking so sad and vacant in the images? I can see only 3 where they’re not looking sad or vacant. Also, you said “I’m a horrible fashion photographer. Maybe if they got in front of a real fashion photog, they could be magically transformed.” Why did you think of doing fashion-style photographs of them in the first place and do you feel you have done the demographic you have focused on, justice?

    Best wishes to you both.

  • “I wasn’t brought up in a sexually repressive middle-class/upper middle class environment as Brian was”

    I thought the entire ethos of being a photographer was to not make asumptions? I’ve got to admit I sometimes jump to conclusions too, I just try not to make the jump a world and Olympic record triple jump… ;-)

  • Herve lusts after Twila in the snow…

    David :-)))).
    Sacha Guitry, the spirited french dramatist and actor said: “the most exciting thing about a new date is when you are coming up the stairs to her door”…

    I subscribe entirely: No anticipation, no lust.

  • Imants writes “remember that what we write often tells others more about us than the subject or the photographer we write on…………”

    I wrote that actually, Charles. Just an excuse post to tell you I got “touch me, I am sick”, your book on the Seattle scene. And happy I did. Someday, you will sign it for me.

  • The section’s name is “Model Introduction”, i.e. the models upload their pictures into this section to be found as models.
    Amateurs pose and photograph what they think is the real thing…

    They rarely smile, because usually that looks stupid. – If you don’t know how to smile nicely, your face just looks weird. So, they look at least what they feel relaxed. A nice exercise – put yourself in front of a camera and take pictures. Then look at the pictures – sad, vacant, sexy, stupid – what do you see?

  • Yea Charles Herve wrote that I just wrote some sexist stuff about snow, also wondered if Jenny was a model material etc.

  • ERICA…

    so sorry, i had missed a couple of your comments which were very clear and well reasoned as always….

    i will be in new york from around the 20th til the end of the month, so i do hope we will have a chance for a gathering of our tribe over at the loft…

    cheers, david

  • Damn. 600+ comments later, it seems to have worked itself out (for the most part). Some of that stuff just smacked of paternalism and sexual repression, but that’s been said way better than me above. If I understood portraiture better I would chime in, but I don’t so I won’t.

  • HERVE,

    Sorry about that – the quoting on here gets confusing at times. I would love to sign your copy of TMIS. Where are you again? I’ll be sure to check in if I’m ever in your ‘hood.


    Once again you bewilder me. What is your hang up about men? Why can’t these women seem sexy/beautiful/intriguing to other women? I have plenty of lesbian friends (my son’s godmother is a black lesbian) who would find these photos hot. And put them in the hands of a female fashion photographer? Jesus, have you ever seen the photos of the likes of Elle Von Unwerth? Makes these look like an advertisement for Ms. magazine.

    They are portraits, and portraits can take many different forms. Whether they are successful fashion photos is a moot point (and probably better they aren’t), as it’s the portrait aspect that is important. But they are portraits of women who are attracted/part of the fashion world – so to extract that dimension would be doing both the images and the subjects a disfavor.

    Okay, that’s it for me.

  • DAH

    Thanks :)

    Will be seeing you at Look in a couple of days, right? Am camping at the farm, would love to hear your thoughts more about wanting to see the work of a woman photog shooting the same demographic. It wasn’t clear to me if you meant a black woman photog, photos of models specifically etc. But could be up for the challenge. Can’t find your exact quote, am typing on phone.

  • Herve wrote that I just wrote some sexist stuff about snow

    All I wrote is that it will not be held against you (to like the girl in the snow).

  • jenny lynn walker

    DAH/ALL: I didn’t intend to write anything more on here but would really like to clarify a few things. It would be great if anyone reads this – if they could please hold off from rude comments if only for the reason that I am one and you are many.

    I’m still trying to understand why I found this essay so upsetting and think it may be connected with living in Tanzania for so long where talk often still revolves around exploitation by ‘the white man’. Of course the women in the essay are not Africans – they are Americans – but the inequality in social standing between the subject and the photographer, the photographer white and the subject black, was perhaps a reminder of that dynamic, albeit symbolic. All of this is the way I’m seeing and NOT directly related to Brian so sincerest apologies to him.

    I have just returned home from several years away and am processing some radical experiences. I missed many comments, even from DAH (if you are reading this) and sincerely apologise for not responding directly.

    DAH: I wish I knew how to talk with you. I always seem to say the wrong thing! It happens every now and then.

  • hi everyone
    i’ve tweaked the statement and posted it on my website, so have a look and lemme know your thoughts.

  • Brian:
    I appreciate the honesty in the ‘tweaked’ essay. It allows my eyes and mind to view the pictures and go on your journey without feeling as if I am being manipulated along the way.

    DAH is correct when he said, we can only hate what we love, and to illicit such anger from me indicates that, even though I ‘hated’ the juxtaposition of the words with the images I ‘loved’ something in the images themselves. You/your images made me care that the text felt incongruent and that alone indicates a job well done.

    I’d like to formally apologize to both Brian, the models, and the Burn forum for my initial comment. I meant WHAT I said (feeling the text was bullshit) but HOW I said it was mean, combative and shameful. (my words were a mirror to my own ugly)

    I truly appreciate what Burn has to offer in both the content of the essays, and the open discussions, and certainly do not want to aide in a fire that would burn BURN into something undesirable. However, the discussion regarding this essay (through bad and good) has caused me to dig deep within my own creative psyche and through the process come to terms with my goals and responsibilities as an image taker and creator- invaluable motivation to get a step closer to answering some pretty big (personal and universal) questions. So in a way all the negativity was used for good, and it appears change took place in many people who got taken by the storm. That said I will do my best to come into this forum without fire on my tongue.

    thank you
    thank you
    thank you

  • sexy and inspiring

  • maybe this documentary brings Brian’s work into context:


    I’m still trying to understand why I found this essay so upsetting and think it may be connected with living in Tanzania for so long where talk often still revolves around exploitation by ‘the white man’. Although the women in the essay are not Africans, the inequality in social standing between the subject and the photographer, the photographer white and the subject black, is a reminder of that dynamic and that whole period of history is: INEXCUSABLE.

  • And appears to be continuing through the way this essay has been concieved and delivered…

  • Late to the party but…. love the portraits, love the collaborative effort that obviously went into these, love the sexuality of these strong beautiful women, i’d be proud to have been photographed like this 20 (and the rest) years ago. They’re pictures I want to keep looking at.
    Not sure that I see the necessity of it being all black women, i think this is more about hopes and identity, but I’m not really seeing their colour, just their strength and individuality.

    Stunning work, really.

  • VICKY…

    i will make sure Brian sees your comment….wait til you see what he is doing next!!

  • David, please do…..and I look forward to it!

  • marco and vicky thanks so much. ruben natal-san miguel gives black girl a nice review on his blog:

  • Talking about being late to the party – how could I have missed this work before? Amazing portraits, very honest photography style, beautiful women. All of that in settings that are so distinctly New York (maybe not for the toursits, but certainly for those of us who live here).

    It is interesting to see the mix of a strong political message about black women by means of beautiful, sexy photos of them. Certainly a very different perspective and something to remember and think about.

    Excellent work!

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