Thursday, August 12, 2021

"My color a study": Skin tone in poetry, painting, photography, and film

In Natasha Trethewey's poem "Thrall", the speaker is Juan de Pareja, a seventeenth-century painter who was first enslaved and then freed by Diego Velázquez: "[...] only once / did he fix me / in paint / my color a study". Skin tone was also a "study" or a problem in the history of color photography, which was designed to capture "caucasian" skin tones accurately. For their film version of James Baldwin's "If Beale Street Could Talk", director Barry Jenkins and cinematographer James Laxton made a study of the filming of the actors' skin, so that the movie is full of gorgeous closeup portraits of the leads, Kiki Layne and Stephan James. (Andrew Shields, #111words, 12 August 2021)
Velázquez, Juan de Pareja
Stephan James and Kiki Layne, If Beale Street Could Talk

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