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A Blog About Culture

Recognition, Situation, Identity, Reality

I first wrote the following onto Facebook, but then realized that it was way too long to include on my graduate studies’ Facebook group. As it is entirely my own opinion and discussion, I figured it would be better to include in this blog, which I had kind of forgotten about. I guess my intention was to ask questions on the group page to see what my classmates also had to say, but if you are reading, feel free to comment here. Or there. Wherever you choose. Or don’t. Just watch the video.

Here’s something. Watch the video if you’re interested. My cousin Riju is a budding fashion model and actress in the “Kollywood” (Kathmandu) scene, so I follow a few Nepali fashion pages, etc. The Himalayan Times recently released an article covering a photo shoot by Leila Hafzi, a Norwegian wedding dress designer who has published a new line called “Flying Silk.” The article describes: “Inspired not only by Nepal’s rich natural beauty, but also by its colorful, intricate culture and people, fashion designer Leila Hafzi spent fifteen years developing ‘Flying Silk,’ a line of ‘high-end ethical & eco conscious’ wedding dresses crafted to embody the Nepalese spirit.”

You can imagine my excitement. I am sharing the following behind-the-scenes video with you for several reasons. 1. So you can see some of the reasons I love going back to Nepal. 2. So you can see pretty women in pretty dresses doing some cool shots. (Standing on ledges? Standing on boats? Crazy.) 3. So you can understand my (slight) frustration with the editorial.

I think the project has great potential, but why were all the models white? And why were all the Nepalese people Photoshopped out of the final copies of the photos? Maybe it has to do with the target customers, but if you’re really going to be interested in “trans-cultural collaboration,” as the website claims, you can’t just pick and choose the cultural markers that you want. As I discussed in my Capstone, you can’t just continue to perpetuate a false reality of what Nepal is.

I’m thinking about my vastly different reactions to these photos vs. Jimmy Nelson’s offensive “Before They Pass Away” photography. I think we can recognize that they come from different intentions, and that makes me more inclined to think positively of Leila Hafzi’s marketing work. Maybe I just like the pretty dresses.

 

Edit:

You know, upon a second viewing of the video, towards the end there are a few shots with people in them. My favorite is the one of the girl in the wedding dress standing in the middle of a party of women clapping and dancing. I thought that of all the photos, that captured the best reality.

I suppose the main point I’m thinking about has to do with the intentions of each campaign. Obviously it is impossible to control the objectives of every entity, especially those with capitalistic goals, but perhaps there are ways to achieve those goals while in partnership with others. I think that is what excites me the most. I’m very critical of advertising everything, but I think it comes from an excitement and a need to improve.

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