Its no secret that fashion tends to exoticize any culture that isn’t immediately familiar with. Russia becomes a place of endless snow and matryoshka dolls, India a land comprised solely of sand and painted elephants. The places change but the principle remains, go back to the broadest stereotype possible and add in some of the seasons clothes. It takes an especially skillful photographer to subvert the stereotypes and move into fresh territory. Given how prevalent (and resoundingly negative) some stereotypes about the continent of Africa can be its intriguing to see Jean Paul Goude and Naomi Campbell do an editorial together that not only plays to those stereotypes but in some ways embraces them.
As per usual the continent as a whole is represented by the jungle and a black female is compared, however subtly to something that is animalistic and wild. Naomi runs alongside cheetahs, mounts a crocodile and jumps rope with chimps – hardly progressive material but the sheer gusto with which she accomplishes each task (paired with the maniacal look on her face) takes things into the level of parody. It’s as though they’re pointing at the ridiculousness of every other editorial with this subject matter and having fun doing so. Whether or not this registers as offensive or thought provoking depends highly on the viewer but Goude’s images (much like his always provocative work with Grace Jones) always manage to take things to that next level.