+June 01, 2020
Skin. We've all got it, but some flesh is deemed more equal than others. Not in terms of how things should be, but just the sad reality of how things currently are.
Andrea Zvadova is a London based photographer who earlier this year, was invited to be part of the #SheTakesOver campaign by Equal Lens. Pigment is a series that began its life solely as a visual idea but quickly transformed into something significantly more profound for the photographer. Throughout the ongoing project, Andrea discovered that Albinism is more than just a skin-deep condition. It does include many health issues such as trouble with eyesight, and skin sensitivity which could lead to skin cancer. But in addition to the physical ramifications of the condition, there are vast issues in the social sphere. This is especially prominent in countries like Africa, where people suffer from significant discrimination, and their condition may be dangerous to their own lives.
The studio-based series is clean, crisp and bright. No props, filters or background environments to distract from what Andrea wants you to see - the individual beauty of those who are born with and have to live with Albinism. There's something peacefully serene about the way she captures her subjects in a moment of reflection and acceptance. Unusual beauty is one of the photographer's longstanding themes, uniqueness has always been of interest to Andrea, and through this series, she tells a story that is as old as time - the story of inequality.
The individuals in this series are people. Regular people. Just like you and me. It just so happens that they have been grouped, labelled and portrayed by media as a very narrow, crude, surface-level stereotype. No one actively chooses the shade of their flesh when they are born, so why do some insist on judging humans solely on their pigment, or absence of pigment? Andrea is using the power of photography to counter the media's misrepresentation, which is seen by millions of impressionable viewers. The unbalanced misrepresentation slowly seeps into the unconscious bias of a generation of people, who then mistake the uncreative trope (employed by those who should know better) for a fact - including some who then go on to falsely believe they are lesser than when they look in the mirror.
Now, some may say, why is this article published in the fashion photo section of Foto Femme United, this isn't fashion photography. But fashion photography can be so much more than just fabric; it can be more than only skin deep. It can be about hopes, dreams and values. Also, this circles back to the point of labels – why must we label everything? Oliviero Toscani proved that fashion photos need not be only surface level beauties with his wonderfully provocative and socially aware fashion campaign for Benetton. It's another perfect example of fashion photography going above and beyond. It's essential to find those areas in which people have decided to devote their precious free time and then to deliver what they're expecting but with a side order of morality. Andrea does this remarkably well with this series. She is challenging the stereotype perpetuated on the small and big screens. Through her viewfinder, Andrea shows us what she sees - the unquestionable beauty of the individuals in front of her lens.