While some say that art is merely an imitation of life, we’ve countlessly seen the power of art to shift culture, spark conversation, and properly reflect the changing times. However, many didn’t know what to think when a photo of naked women of color holding their hands up toward a white woman standing in the middle started trending on social media.
The photo in question was done by 24-year-old visual composer Bennie Rose, whose Instagram is curated with a multitude of portrait and colorful photography, many of them depictions and images of Black women. This photo, however, has prompted questions that go past artistic freedom, many not understanding what message the visual artist was trying to denote.
With the lightest model in the center, the other models are reaching out to her. To some, it was art; to others, it was problematic. Rose explained to HelloBeautiful that the idea actually came from the models on set and he agreed, also noting that despite society’s idea that everything artistically has meaning, this image did not. “ When we were on set, we saw that there was a different number of [darker] women and [lighter] women, and one of them actually came up with this idea. Immediately I said let’s do it,” he said. “Of course, people were like, ‘yo, are you sure you want to do this?’ and I was like ‘F*** yeah.’ Honestly, there is no other back story than that.”
Some–self included–couldn’t figure out how one could simply create art without a specific purpose. With the increased conversations of cultural identity and the understanding of colorism in various communities, why would this one model be chosen? Well, why not?
And in all honesty, Rose wasn’t surprised at all by the uproar of his photo–they more or less anticipated it. “We knew it was going to happen,” he explained. “But honestly, the [art] comes from the discussions that are happening. All I am supposed to do is do what I do, and then go from there.” Rose explained that the evolution of an artist is one that sometimes will cause controversy, however, how his art is received isn’t as important as constantly evolving and building as an artist. “Sometimes people expect you to stay the same,” he said, “and I lost quite a few followers the next day. But then the day afterward, I gained a ton of more followers. So I guess it’s just how things happen.”
The artist has said he’s not planning on backing down anytime soon–in fact, there is much more to come from the seemingly controversial shoot. “Oh, this year, I’m going big,” he said. And while we can’t imagine what “big” is for the provocative photographer, we can assure you it’ll definitely be a conversation starter.