Fashion photographer Chen Man and French luxury fashion house Dior issued an apology this week after a stylised photo from the famous visual artist sparked outrage in the mainland for perpetuating Western stereotypes of Asian faces.
Chen Man’s photographs are currently on display in the latest “Dior and Art” exhibit held at the Shanghai West Bund Art Centre. However, it was one of her photographs featuring a young woman staring at the camera with dark eye makeup and freckled skin holding up a Lady Dior purse which drew a lot of controversy. Angry Netizens have criticised the work for “uglifying the image of Asians” and for catering to Western stereotypes of Asians. In contrast, there are also those who say showing the world the beauty of small eyes and a much more diversified sort of aesthetics is a good thing instead of angrily saying “we don’t look like this”.
Chen Man Apologises
In her apology, Chen Man said that after having had time to reflect deeply, she blamed herself for her immaturity and ignorance at the time the photograph was taken. Hence she must formally apologise for it to everyone.
“I was born and raised in China and I love our motherland deeply. I realise that as an artist, I bear the responsibility of documenting and conveying Chinese culture, showing the beauty of China through my work. This is also the goal I have always strived for and which I worked hard for”, she said. The visual artist also said that her earlier works do not fully reflect her artistic concept which she was still developing and that her works at the time reflected her lack of thinking.
Amongst Chen Man’s past works also criticised were her 2008 series entitled Young Pioneer (少先队员) and her 2012 collab with i-D magazine. Young Pioneer shows a young lady sporting a sheer dress standing in front of landmarks such as the Three Gorges Dam, the CCTV tower and the Chang’e, China’s first lunar explorer. According to the photographer, the series was intended to marry China’s past and and its future in a photograph. Critics on the other hand lambasted the series, saying the revealing and see-through dress worn by the girl in the photos was inappropriate and not worthy to be standing in front of some of China’s great achievements.
Likewise, Chen Man’s covers for i-D magazine were similarly criticised. Featuring a set of 12 heavily stylised colourful covers that showcase a diverse group of Chinese women front and centre in each, some people have taken exception to the hair and makeup of the models featured as well as the unique outfits worn, saying that it played right into Western stereotypes.
“I blame myself and solemnly apologise again”. To avoid “hurting” anyone, Chen Man said she has already removed the relevant content from her platforms. She also vowed to educate herself further on history and by participating in related organizations to strengthen her ideology.
Meanwhile, the French fashion house responded to the controversy by saying the photographer’s work was part of Dior’s art projects and that it was not a Dior commercial ad. They also confirmed they’ve already pulled out the relevant content from all their platforms.
I have seen the differences between her image/photo and her “work”. If she think women are like how she represent them, she could also represent herself likewise.
She is just an hypocrit with her apologies.
What does how she looks have anything to do with her work? There’s so many artist that’s the complete opposite of their work .
So many people think her art is beautiful and is empowering .
I actually found this shoot stunning and aesthetically very interesting it did not come across as if she was “uglifying” asians at all. Moreoever i don’t think she did anything wrong in showing the diverse ethnic background of China? It was just styled in a way that fit a very specific aesthetic that i feel like she’s known for. I feel bad that she had to apologise for something that essentially is just an individual’s creative expression. None of this came across as to me as catering to the western stereotypes of asians at all
you said it so nicely! thank you! i got so sad that China and South Korea went down the plastic route. I rarely can tell the difference between all those manga like round eyes faces, while diversity and beauty of East Asians is so deep and can be in another level. This photoshoot is so stunning. China is losing the plot. Kitschy standards took over.
Yea, I too found these photos are beautiful. The models have clear asian straits, which generally classed as ugly, yet they are stunning. I would not change anything really. And I agree, it shows a diverse beauty, not just the typical round eyes, pointy mango face, with bright skin to be beautiful.
Here I was like these pictures are stunning .. I guess la they want a more fresh face look .. still pretty
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and as an African, I find her photographs extraordinary beautiful and colorful. There are so many standards of art and beauty in this world. Why then should one hold beauty to one standard and force an artist to apologize for their art? What world do we live in? This is 2021, for heaven’s sake! Smh
So…Asians who do have small eyes are not considered beautiful? Asians want to bleach their skins, have big eyes but cannot accept how they also look before all the surgery and whitewashed makeup. Pity. Hm, she didn’t need to apologize, many people still accept that we are all beautiful no matter how small the eyes are or how dark the skin is.
I loved the photo. An artist cannot please everyone. The value of art is in artistic freedom. Art is not supposed to be likable, true to reality or conformist. Otherwise it’s not art, it’s mass production.