The Coil Review

Wednesday, January 07, 2009


"Eugenio Recuenco is considered as one of the most creative Spanish fashion photographers. The creative department of many catalogues and agencies defined his style "cinematographic" or "pictorial". In Spain he shoots exclusively for Vogue."
This statement was taken from Mr. Recuenco's website.

When I saw the above photograph on YMIB's website, I decided to take a look at more of his work.

Here's what I found, and was taken aback with these "blackface" images - even though they are artistic and striking.

My issue with these photos is that I did not find any other ethnic "stereotypes" in his work, which begs the question...WHY ARE BLACKS ALWAYS SHOWN IN THIS WAY?

Other cultures and ethnicities are mostly photographed in quirky and artsy photos, but photographers "hardly ever," and dare I say "never" really play to other's history of degradation. Donning BLACKFACE makeup is a period in black people's lives that was a direct attempt to create caricatures of racist buffonery (i.e. - play the fool, jester, slapstick comedian)...and for Mr. Recuenco to embrace this is questionable. Why do people always go there?

Remember that whole debacle with Ted Danson and Whoopi Goldberg? Ted appeared at a celebrity roast in blackface and Whoopi defended it as "comical." the masses it was a (blackface) slap in our faces, but to a select few it was an opportunity (they thought) to diffuse this negative image. I say let that image stay dead and buried because it only gives permission to bring it out in the open over and over again for new generations of non-blacks to misuse.

The following statement was taken from Al Jolson's bio page which explains why most non-blacks don't take offense to this practice.


In 1904, while playing an engagement at Keeney's Theatre in Brooklyn, Al started performing in blackface, supposedly at the suggestion of veteran blackface comedian James Francis Dooley. Working behind a burnt cork mask gave Al a sense of freedom and spontaneity he had never known before. The act became a surefire laugh-getter, and was soon booked on vaudeville's Orpheum circuit. Blackface was not considered racially offensive in the early 1900s. White men smearing their faces black and imitating African Americans had been common on American stages since the 1830s, and was just one form of the coarse, humor that all racial and ethnic groups were subjected to at that time. We have no reason to believe Al Jolson's use of blackface was motivated by anything other than a desire to entertain. He was never known to express racist attitudes, and often went out of his way to befriend black performers who were subjected to segregation in theatres, hotels and restaurants. I am not defending blackface, a convention most people consider unthinkable today. However, I am suggesting Jolson's use of blackface is best understood in the context of his era. He was not making a statement; he was hiding behind a mask – a mask that gave him an extraordinary sense of confidence while on stage.

If this was the case, then why not use white, red, green, yellow or blue face!!??? Don't hand me a bill of goods and expect me to accept that no one realized how it affected blacks. Again, in Jolson's misguided attempt to "steal" what was part of our culture (being a great "black" entertainer), blackface took on a life of its own embracing a racial stereotype of blacks.

This site fails to mention that most black entertainers were forced to appear in blackface if they wanted to work in front of white audiences. So if there was no racial motivation, then why have a black man wear this "mask" mocking his own self? That's what's so bizarre and dastardly about "blackface". We didn't even create this practice but we bear the brunt of its use.

The Japanese are notorious for showing blacks in blackface, depicting stereotypical mammies and coons on toys and product artwork. No one ever seems to realize that this is not something we take pride in. Advertising can be lethal and no one owns up to it because it's not their race that's being offended.

It's like the world embracing the "N" word. I say, "that's not cute so please do not let me hear non-blacks saying it in my presence." Ya'll just don't get it!!


Mr. Recueno's photos of his non-black subjects can be considered eccentric, artsy and quirky.

I know that most ad agencies don't cater to non-white readers, so is beauty and/or art truly in the eye of the beholder? Is there, or should there be some standard in place that foils the attempts of those who continue to embrace what others find offensive? If you have enough clout and money, you can buy any kind of ad imagery in the most prominent magazines in the world. Therefore, this kind of subtle racism continues to be accepted globally.

Miss Kamora Lee Simmons even used Mr. Recuenco's skills on her ad campaign for Baby Phat and you know she is not about the foolishness of racism. But is she so used to it that it doesn't matter when it comes to dollars and sense?

I don't want to suffer the backhanded compliments of this kind of photography. So I am compelled to stand up and state my thoughts and ideas about that which blacks endure every single day of our lives - constant negative attacks on who we are and what we stand for.

A lot of cultures steal all that is good and "hip" in the African-American culture, and flippantly toss out vile images just for the hell of it. I'm just sayin'....when will people ever let us be wholly glorified as others are and not mocked when they can't find other ways to be creative? A question for the ages, yea?

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