I have seen it noted by many that there is a bias in carnival photo albums. Specifically, a “Pecking order” in which the thin, straight haired and fair skinned rule supreme.
Is this a fair statement?
Many argue that this is borne out in some carnival photo albums where many of the subjects looks very similar.
Why is this?
Well as a budding carnival photographer I am first to say that my camera is an extension of my personal biases when it comes to beauty. Beauty is in the eye of beholder after all. Also keep in mind that Carnival is not a normal place. Its different in that you can walk all day and see your preferred “type” all day and if you wish shoot that type all day, often without even being conscious of doing so.
But I am more than my base instincts when it comes to carnival photography.
I aim to capture the spirit of carnival in my photos. I want you to feel (even a little) like you are back on the road when you see them. I want them to remind you of the joy of those 2 days.
So I look for the scenes and faces around me that encapsulate that spirit and try to capture that in my shot. That’s when you capture authentic joy in your photos.
I have to admit that this is a bit easier for me to do, for if I make a carnival album that no one wants to look at then so be it. LEHWEGO is a labour of love for me really and nothing much more (yet). If a professional is doing work for a big social media website and does the same, heads will roll. Thats a lot more pressure to stick to the status quo and shoot a certain demographic. To tell the truth, I think the problem is not as bad as I have heard. Most of the albums I look at are balanced and show the wide cross section carnival usually has.
My opinion in this debate is “every ho ‘ave ‘im ‘tick a bush” (for my purposes this means – there is someone who thinks you are beautiful) regardless the skin tone, size, hair type or anything else. Shoot everyone that shows that carnival joy!
I believe it’s our jobs as photographers to show ALL sides and let you, our fans, decide for yourselves.
One of the comments on my Facebook page from Risèe Chaderton on this issue was so well said I think it deserves to be included here as well… (make sure to click her name to see more from her)
“There is a eurocentric bias for beauty globally and that is reflected everywhere. Lighter skin, longer, less kinky hair are considered the height of gorgeous while darker, less eurocentric featured women are considered less gorgeous.
Darker skinned women who make the cut are usually exceptionally gorgeous or of mixed ethnicity just with dark skin—think Wendy Fitzwilliam—while lighter skinned women who are pretty ordinary looking easily get the stamp of approval.
As individuals we often think that we have no biases but we all have biases because the world is not an unbiased place.
The way to counter these biases is not to pretend they don’t exist or to argue that we are exceptions and can counter these biases because we are “good people who don’t think about race/shade/colourism”. What we must do is think about these biases, examine them and determine ways to see our own Caribbean beauty in all its glorious shades and not simply view ourselves and our definition of beauty through the lens of a world that only loves us when we are entertaining it.”