Images of people of color and and white women are never unproblematic. As much as we claim to live in a colorblind post racial world, such photos are always charged with our understanding of the ways in which race and gender intersect. The white woman is the focal point of this picture whereas; the black hands exist mainly to provide contrast to the starkness of her being. These hands devour without context because they are disconnected from a physical body, implying that given the opportunity blackness would pose a serious threat to white womanhood. The above is just one in a series of photos of model Gisele Bündchen taken by fashion photographer Sølve Sundsbø.
You will note that Gisele Bündchen is not only the sole person that is clothed, she is also the only one to look directly into the camera. Hers is not a look of defiance but that of surrender as her ravishers cart her away. When we consider that for generations the black man has suffered under the construction of the rapist of white women, these images are indeed troubling. Their nakedness in opposition to her clothed body helps reinforces the hyper sexual/masculine identity that is often encoded to the black male body.
Where is the art in re-creating the Mandingo carts off Missy Anne image? Again we see a powerless white female contrasted against a naked and desiring black man. He takes without asking and she is powerless to subvert his will. This is exactly the meme that white men have been promoting since the first African slave set foot in the western world. The black man is understood as mindless; he is a big black dick seeking sexual gratification because that is all he knows. Gisele Bündchen stands as a warning to all white women of what could happen to them, should they dare to subvert racial lines and interact with black men.
After all of the images of the potential rape this photo seems comforting, until we ask the question what woman willingly embraces her rapist. When the face of the black man is finally featured he is defiant; there is no tenderness to counteract the previous images of bestial posturing.
When Sølve Sundsbø took these photos he clearly had a vision in mind. No one is born outside of discourse and therefore behind each image there was a clear intent to disturb. Art is meant to challenge boundaries and cause us to question but can we really call this art when it only plays upon ideas that regularly circulate in our daily discourse? Your thoughts…..