British photographer creates dark-skinned models using 3D imaging and people are unhappy
British photographer Cameron James-Wilson created Shudu as a private, pet 3D imaging project. But soon, the digitally-rendered dark-skinned model had gone viral, and Cameron-James had some questions to answer about his creation.
Shudu captivated the netizens with her sleek figure, her dark skin, and her Ndebele-inspired neck rings, reaching a sort of pseudo-stardom on Instagram with over 39,000 followers. Her popularity reached meteoric levels when Rihanna's Fenty Beauty reposted an image of the model with the brand's Saw-C lipstick and became the symbol of black empowerment. But few knew that Shudu, along with male model Nfon, were creations of 28-year-old self-taught British photographer Cameron-James Wilson.
Having spent 10 years working in the fashion industry, Cameron-James sculpted Shudu and Nfon as part of a 3D imaging project while working on some graphic novels and animations. Talking to Metro, he says he took inspiration from a Barbie doll called the Princess of South Africa and a model called Duckie Thot and that he tried to create the "most beautiful woman I could."
It's doubtful that Fenty Beauty knew they were not sharing the image of an actual black model but that of a digitally rendered one. After all, Shudu's Instagram handle was updated to reflect her status as a 3D only after James-Cameron gave this interview with Isiuwa, where he spoke about his inspiration for her creation, why he decided to create her, and the reactions she has received since.
And while plenty have lauded Cameron-James' regal creation, there have been just as many who have been confused, insulting, and offended by his work. The most common criticism leveled at Shudu's creation has been that Cameron-James, a white photographer, decided to create and promote a digital dark-skinned model instead of offering the same chance to a real black woman who could have done with similar exposure. He also faced a backlash for a statement he gave during an interview with Harper's Bazaar where he said 'there's a big kind of movement with dark skin models.'
So Shudu was created by a white man to profit off of black women without actually having to pay them??? HELLA NERVE. Technology came a long way however It’s plenty of dark skinned models who look like her but they get overlooked. Book them instead of cloning them. https://t.co/oiB7vA8l7U— Elegant💎 (@Drebae_) 28 February 2018
We are not a 'trend' or 'movement' pic.twitter.com/tODPKFT9i5— Kitsune (@OhwGE) 27 February 2018
I can't even put into words how wrong this is. Why is it so hard to just pay black women— 🌸 (@ForDarkGirls) 27 February 2018
There are literally hundreds of women identical to this that you can hire as models. This look is prevalent in countries like Sudan. You’d rather create digital versions of black models rather than hire them?— jarritospina (@Bitchcraftzz) 27 February 2018
So he noticed there was a market to bank off of people's demand for representation of beautiful black skin, and he thought to himself, I'll take that spot with my white skills 🙄
Not to hate but, I don't like it lol— TakeMeToMyIsland~ (@ShyVaux) 28 February 2018
If he in general made models of all looks, itd be different..
"He noticed there was a big movement with dark skin models" that part made me vomit a little. Our completion is just a trend for him lol— .... (@boringgtweets) 28 February 2018
Answering his critics, he told Isiuwa that it was just his way of redefining beauty and that he hopes he can help give people more perspective on his creation: "Shudu is just everything I’m passionate about brought together. She embodies the best parts of the things that inspire me."
"I think that though her purpose has changed since I created her, what started out as just me creating the most beautiful woman I could imagine has become something empowering for lots of people. To see someone like them depicted in a way that's glamorous, regal and a little sexy too has really meant something to a lot of her followers. I'm so proud to be adding to a movement where people of all shades can feel beautiful."
He also quick to dispel the notion that Shudu was being used for commercial reasons or as a replacement for real-life models, claiming that he never intended to share his creation publicly but that it was first posted on Instagram without his permission.
He told Metro: "Shudu isn’t for hire, she’s a muse for my creative output. I continue to post to Shudu.gram because people really enjoy the art, they enjoy the imagery. I’m not trying to replace models and if anything it’s a criticism of how fake society has become that a CGI Model can pass for real. We’re living in a very filtered world, that strangely for me Shudu is an escape from. The criticism that I’ve faced only comes from misunderstanding."
He also addressed how society is now coming to accept different standards of beauty, telling Isiuwa: "Although there's a slight change happening now, more people need to question, what really is beautiful. I get many comments saying that her beauty is 'rare' but she represents and is inspired by a whole continent of beautiful women. To me she's special, yes, but as are millions of real-life African men and women."
"A lot of what we see in media is trying to be less real, with filters and makeup. Shudu is coming from the other direction, she's a fantasy trying to break through into reality and I have plans to help her do so. She's already posed with real-life model Nfon Obong and I'd love to see her interact more with people."
While there still remains a hot debate around Shudu, Cameron-James is not too worried and hopes to allow her to take him where she goes creatively. He also feels that the next five years will see big developments for the applications of 3D but not enough not to see real change.
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