Racism in Western fashion prompts photographer to quit

Dec 9, 2021

Alex Baker

Alex Baker is a portrait and lifestyle driven photographer based in Valencia, Spain. She works on a range of projects from commercial to fine art and has had work featured in publications such as The Daily Mail, Conde Nast Traveller and El Mundo, and has exhibited work across Europe

Racism in Western fashion prompts photographer to quit

Dec 9, 2021

Alex Baker

Alex Baker is a portrait and lifestyle driven photographer based in Valencia, Spain. She works on a range of projects from commercial to fine art and has had work featured in publications such as The Daily Mail, Conde Nast Traveller and El Mundo, and has exhibited work across Europe

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Well-known fashion photographer Jingna Zhang has announced that she has decided to no longer engage in fashion photography, citing an unforgiving uphill battle against racism in the Western Magazine market as one of the reasons for quitting.

The announcement came as a major blow to Zhang’s many followers and fans who had looked to her as an inspiration, particularly among other Asian female aspiring photographers. She was a regular feature in many high profile fashion magazines, including cover images on Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar.

In a post uploaded to both Facebook and Instagram, Zhang recounts a portfolio review with “an editor from a prestigious magazine”.

I don’t remember the exact words but the gist of it was like “I’m sure this aesthetic—*gestures at my covers*—works back where you’re from. But these perfect brows, black hair, red lips—it’s just too much. It’s wrong for the western market.”

– Jingna Zhang

She continues “Have you … seen me? Black hair red lips perfect brows. Just tell me my taste sucks or my eye isn’t good enough, which can all be true! But this particular way of delivery, especially when I think is unintended, just felt like a rejection of my entire culture”.

Zhang admits that after this review she went home and cried for two weeks, knowing full well that the progression of her career had hit the proverbial glass ceiling, she knew that she would not be working for a Western magazine in the future.

Zhang also says that the encounter with the editor was a triggering moment for her. As an immigrant to Singapore from Beijing aged 8, she experienced racism and xenophobia with people telling her to “go back to where she came from”. The editor used the words “back where you’re from” which Zhang says provoked a negative response after years of hearing that as a child.

Her point is not that people feel sorry for her, but rather to highlight that the decision-makers at the top level of the fashion world tend to have a fixed and not very worldly view of what constitutes beauty. What we value in one part of the world is not necessarily the same in other parts and Zhang was made to feel bad by celebrating things that are not considered to be in step with the rest of the fashion world. She is not the first Asian photographer to come under fire recently for her depiction of Asian women in the fashion world.

I imagine that her decision to step away from fashion photography is a lot more complex than just one rejection from one editor. I believe she is simply using that as one example. Somebody as successful as Zhang doesn’t walk away from something just because of one rejection. Her work is beautiful and I hope that she can move forward in the work and aesthetic that she wants to create without having to compromise her artistic vision to be constricted into conforming to Western fashion culture.

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Alex Baker

Alex Baker

Alex Baker is a portrait and lifestyle driven photographer based in Valencia, Spain. She works on a range of projects from commercial to fine art and has had work featured in publications such as The Daily Mail, Conde Nast Traveller and El Mundo, and has exhibited work across Europe

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9 responses to “Racism in Western fashion prompts photographer to quit”

  1. Flora Posteschild Avatar
    Flora Posteschild

    Racism disguised as realism.

    God forbid this “prestigious magazine” lead so-called western taste, rather than following it.

  2. James Wallace Avatar
    James Wallace

    Personally, I have been interracially married for decades. My wife is Japanese. I have had so many encounters where we bump up against blatant racism professionally. “Oh, this is your wife.” It is particularly comical and sad, when you come across self riotous liberals, who think they are the gold standard of racial acceptance and then stomp all over the feelings of Asians. Making racist statements against Asians is not considered bad form, only selected minorities get cultural acceptance and outrage when racism is exhibited. It can be seen all over, especially in fashion and particularly Hollywood. Take Apple’s latest offering on Apple TV, “The Foundation.” Apparently 1/3 of the entire human population, Asians, died off. It is sickening when particularly stupid, but gifted by the lucky sperm club, idiots go on play superior. My wife, who’s entire family was interred by just suck jerks, went on to pay her own way through UCLA, graduate Magna Cum Laude and is CFO of a multi-million dollar company. Still she has to suffer dolts like that. I react badly, but she would prefer not to have the confrontation.

    1. Layla Clark Avatar
      Layla Clark

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  3. John Beatty Avatar
    John Beatty

    One thing that is and will always separate us from all other living things on earth is hate. It comes in all colors, tastes, and forms. Only humans exhibit it. Other lifeforces use fear as a reaction to things unsafe. But, us humans have developed hate to push power, superiority, and submission. We see it in religion, cooperate and as so eloquently done by trump, politics. So, until you can take hate glasses off, you either have to see the beauty life has to offer…or nuke it.

    1. Robert Hicks Avatar
      Robert Hicks

      I think the fact you need to rant about Trump eleven months after he left office is the real demonstration, well that and you being unable to spell corporate in your little screed. Where you really see the hate is in socialism where a hundred million people have been murdered out of nothing but envy

      1. John Beatty Avatar
        John Beatty

        Yeppers, me a human too. Sorry about the misspell and thanks for correcting me. Yes to Socialism and add communism and capitalism. So, as you see I can admit my mistakes and errors. Not try and blame someone else.

      2. Sane_American Avatar
        Sane_American

        Someone’s triggered.

  4. suruha Avatar
    suruha

    “Prestigious” according to who, or is it whom?

  5. Cody Avatar
    Cody

    OR.. like what you like. Don’t like what you don’t like. It’s easy to do. I don’t like things I don’t like every day. If i can do it, anyone can. Just like people can’t force YOU to like things, why should YOU be allowed to force people to like thinks that YOU want them to like. Live your life for you, and for you.