‘They ended (up) choosing the images, retouching it, and finishing the process without sending me anything’
Last week, Italian luxury brand Marni came under fire for a digital flip-flop campaign that featured a number of Black models paired with racist language – in one shot, a model appeared to have chains around his ankles. Now, the campaign photographer, Afro-Braziliian photographer Edgar Azevedo, is claiming that his images were altered after submission.
Speaking to MJournal, Azevedo explained that he was approached by Marni to appear in a platform dedicated to new Black creative talents, featuring Marni merch. But the samples got delayed and Azevedo was told they would be collaged into the images later. After delivering the photographs, he didn’t hear anything about the campaign until it had dropped.
“Initially, the products from Marni were meant to be shot along with some models here in Salvador, but as the pandemic hit us, the pieces ended up not arriving in time for the shoot, which originated the idea of making collages with the pieces on the images we would produce,” Azevedo explained.
“They ended (up) choosing the images, retouching it, and finishing the process without sending me anything,” he said.
The campaign, which was released on July 28 via Instagram, and spotted soon after by Diet Prada, depicted models wearing a series of ‘ethnic’ items including woven grass hats, chunky wooden Bayong necklaces, and piles of bangles. A series of accompanying statements included phrases such as “Jungle mood”, “Barefoot in the jungle”, and “Tribal amulet”, which (clearly) reinforce archaic racist and colonial stereotypes.
“I was pretty happy with the idea of doing something with my homies for such a big brand as Marni, but I wasn’t expecting to feel so sad after seeing my images being reposted with extremely inappropriate subtitles. It was hard to believe,” Azevedo explained.
“I was aware they would be used to promote the new bags and sandals but I was not aware of the collection’s name or anything around it,” he added.
A particularly troubling shot in the campaign includes a model with what appears to be shackles near his feet. When asked about this, Azevedo said that the chains were part of a security barricade the model was standing on to get a better angle.
“The image would be cropped, the chains would not be present in the image at all. The problem is that they didn’t send me the images for approval before publishing. I was entirely out of this process,” he explained.
To make matters worse, Azevedo was offered a total rate of 6k reals (approximately £860), including models and production, which is considerably lower than average for orchestrating an entire branded campaign shoot. After the backlash to the campaign, he was offered a further $1900 compensation – the amount it would have cost Marni to send their own production crew to Brazil.
Responding to the controversy, Diet Prada said: “Azevedo deserves the same pay and inclusion in the process that any other photographer would have been afforded. It’s great that big brands are making the effort to hire Black creators, but they still need to respect their visions, not rewrite them with a racist narrative… not to mention pay up.”
Azevedo added: “My work is and has always been based on building positive representation of Black skin in visual culture.”
Dazed has reached out to Marni for comment.