The image is powerful. The image is beautiful. The image is aesthetically pleasing. The image is bold. The image is serious. The subjects of the image command respect. And, unfortunately, the image is an anomaly in the world of fashion and fashion periodicals – or any periodicals for that matter, minus an issue or two of Ebony or Essence.
The image of 12 area African-American women, stunningly clad in all black outfits appeared in the January/February issue of Fashion Odds (www.fashionodds.com), an online magazine headquartered in the Twin Cities. The less than a year old magazine, which has a printed version, first gained serious exposure when it ran an exclusive interview with cultural icon, Lady Gaga. The latest issue has once again placed the magazine in the national spotlight with its pictorial titled, "Back to Black."
The 12 women captured on film vary in age, size and career and each has a unique and powerful story. Individually, a couple of the women are journalists. A couple are models – one of whom just survived a bout with stage 3 cancer. One is a singer who has been featured on "The Voice." A few are high-ranking corporate executives. A few more are entrepreneurs. Collectively, they form an iconic image that has already inspired a community.
"For me, the heroes are people like Robyne Robinson and Sonya Goins," said Chris Parker, creative director for Fashion Odds. "I said let's give people another type hero to look up to."
Parker said he started with Robinson and Goins and grew the list of models by researching successful and up-and-coming area African-American women. The women featured are (in order of the photo from left to right) Anna Jones, Shatona Kilgore Groves, Coryn Woitel, Sherita Moss, Ashley DuBose, Goins, Robinson, Faatemah Ampey, Jasmine Stringer, Ada Johnson, Felica Wright- Palmer and Judy Justin. Parker said Minnesota Lynx star Maya Moore was to have been a part of the shoot, but there was a scheduling conflict.
Prior to being introduced to photographer Chris McDuffie, Parker encountered another conflict with the shoot. According to Parker, at least two other photographers pulled out of the shoot because they either didn't agree with the vision of promoting positive images of African-American womanhood or they said that shooting African-American women was "too difficult."
"We lost a couple of photographers over this shoot," said Parker. "Some photographers really don't see the beauty in Black and some wanted to use over-sexualized imagery or shoot it in a provocative way. That's why we were so excited to link up with Chris McDuffie."
McDuffie, who is African-American, said he was stunned to hear of other photographers' apprehensions of shooting African-American women.
"That's shocking and sad," said McDuffie, who owns Chris McDuffie Photography. "To say it's difficult to film Black women; I found that to be absurd. I've filmed all types of people and (color has) never been a problem."
McDuffie said the image speaks volumes.
"It's a very powerful piece of women of different generations and different professions and showing them in a very elegant light," said McDuffie. "This is something very clean and simple, but still very elegant."
Parker said, though not by initial design, the shoot took place at an African-American owned salon, Beauty Lounge Minneapolis, and four of the models were styled by African-American stylists.
Goins, a producer with WCCO and an on-air reporter with Channel 12 News, who suffers from Crohn's Disease said the shoot was cathartic.
She said participating in the shoot made her feel beautiful. Said Goins, "This is my way of fighting back. I want to show people you don't have to let your circumstances hold you back."
Goins said the response to the photo has been overwhelming. According to the producer and reporter, who also runs marathons to raise awareness of Crohn's, she has received countless emails and showings of support, many from people she has never known. She said the photograph goes far beyond just a typical model shoot.
"As beautiful as the picture is, when you read each person's story, it makes the picture that more compelling," said Goins.