Thursday, September 10, 2009


Its real easy to get images that the industry will accept when the model is already validated by the industry with representation, tearsheets, editorials and major campaigns. Clothes with designer labels attached to them also help make images get the thumbs up in the business. It is more of a challenge to work with new talent who hasn't received the seal of approval from the fashion powers that be. I do that with the models I have selected for my work. I have worked with unsigned (at the time) models like Brian Peters, Andre Douglas, Brandon Parker, Joseph/ Laurence McCrea, Gene Grady, Geremy Alexander, Christian Dubosse and so many other because I truly believe in their potential to be forerunners helping me redefining black man's image in this industry to be more than a one dimensional hip hop caricature.
I dressed them ( and undressed them) and put them in the same circumstances their leading white counter parts so that the fashion industry can see black men are strong enough and capable of representing a relevant fashion vision.

Given the opportunity to choose from models from an agency board, I chose guys like Pierre Woods, Darrell Walden Jr., Wendell Lissimore, Art Stroman, Marcus LLoyd, Lamar James, Lawrence Annunziata, and so many men of color because no one else was choosing them. Their images weren't as strong as the white boys and were dated. They were going to castings with the same pictures they had from when they first signed with their agencies. Some even found it difficult to get a photo test because most photographers felt they had enough black guys in their portfolio. i wanted my collaboration with the black guys to show they could do more than just commercial and urban shit. I wanted to show that they could do the same type of work that set these white guys up for prestigious and lasting careers.

AS a black fashion photographer, I don't think people realize how much pressure we are under to NOT work with black models. The industry is constantly telling us that black models are NOT fashion and that they are commercial and to focus on working with the mostly white ones if we want credibility and prestige. I have constantly been pressured to conform to this idea. If I had listened, there would be no Brian Peters, Andre Douglas, Christian ect because I would have never worked with them. I never believed in the idea that same = change. If you want to see opportunities swing in your favor you haveta take some responsibility and make steps toward making that happening.

I recall shooting Seandon Robertson @ Boss models whose portfolio contained mostly pictures of him wearing baggy jeans, hair braided to the back, and mean mugging the camera. I wanted to show a totally different side of him and focused on giving him images that showed him with a more fashiony edge. The agents weren't very happy with the images I shot of him because felt they could do nothing with them since they were only interested in marketing him as an urban model. According to them they felt that my work was too stylized and made Seandon look "soft" and "gay." I wanted to show that Seandon could do more than be a "nigga with braids." I know that my images changed Seandon's view of himself and the way clients saw him.

When Uptown Magazine was doing a feature on Pierre Woods and was looking for a photographer to shoot it. They were considering using a prominent white photographer that Pierre had worked with in the past. The pictures with this photographer were some of the worst work Pierre had done. Pierre saw this as an opportunity to suggest me since the work I had done with him portrayed him in the best light. Pierre then round up Polo stylist Kelli Browning and Randal Jacobs and makeup artist Crystal Clark to create some hot editorial images for this feature. I remember Kelli commented that this was her first time working with this many black people on a project. I totally applaud the effort Pierre made to pull up other talented black people who really could use the opportunity to show what they could do. I wish more black models would use their opportunities to help bring other deserving talents (black and white) through the door.

Although I have conscientiously made definite efforts toward change with some positive results, mine are baby steps. Its gonna take the models reaching out and helping each other instead of fighting each other for that "token" spot. The photographers, fashion stylist, muas, and hair dressers are gonna haveta start opening the door wider so more black talents can take advantage of opportunities. Its definitely gonna take modeling agents and bookers to broaden their view of their black models to extend beyond the commercial market for them to be considered for the editorial and high-end prestigious jobs. I must applaud agencies like Red models and Major Model mgmt. who, thru their presentation, present their ethnic models in the same light as the white ones. Most agencies only see their black models doing catalog and commercial work and never put their muscle behind them for editorial/ high fashion opportunities.

I'm not saying we should become anti-white or anything like that. I most certainly enjoy working with all types of people. I just want to see myself reflected and represented in this industry and have the opportunity to become the next Bruce Weber, Steven Miesel, Patrick Demarchelier, or Steven Klien. I don't see that happening if we continue to feed the machine the same ol things.


  1. I COMPLETELY agree with you and respect what you do 100%


  3. Terrific expose. It is great to see this spoken of by someone close to the industry and to see the manifold angles such as the preping and tutoring of the models so that they can fit into mainstream and be competitive with their White counterparts.

    But the fact remains. There is still a nasty prejudice toward people of color in the fashion industry. Thank God for people like yourself who are working against the grain to bring these issues to our attention. We MUST keep hearing about them so that we can eat away and ultimately dissolve the prejudice.

  4. Excellent post. I always suspected that this is what's happening in the fashion model industry but don't work close enough to the industry to validate that assumption. I'm glad that you have spoken out against this and making people aware that America has made large strides in racial equality but we still have a long way to go.

  5. WOW! And I am a huge fan of black male models.....Shawn Sutton is that ish.

  6. Excellent article. I posted about this at

    As many people as possible should hear what you've got to say - and see your work.

  7. great site

    i have a summer budjet for my latest project if you would like to cross-promote hit me at

    im in theprocess of making a selection which model to feature in DENDERAH SO FAR I HAVE SOME GUYS FROM FUSIONS BUT ILL TRY TO EXTEND MYSELF TO OTHER AGENTS

  8. Tarrice,
    Reading your post here, man, you are kicking Bruce Weber, Steven Meisel Demarchelier's behinds. Don't get me wrong, growing up seeing Bruce and Steven's ads, then learning of Demarchelier, they were and are awesome @ their craft. However, Bruce unashamedly only photographed young white males. The other two had black models every now and then, but not the black least I haven't seen any work.

    Your portraiture has that "it" factor that I haven't seen in a while. You are finding some great looking male models and I love the angles you shoot from. And while others are putting up 6 and 7 lights to light a set, your lighting is simple, yet maintains a powerful impact. You tend to capture that RAW essence from the strong black faces you shoot.

    Much continued success brotha!

  9. Tarrice,
    I thank you so much for this article from the bottom of my heart. You would think in this day and age, with all of our progressions socially, that the BLACK FACE would finally be seen as an object of potential beauty. As a former black model,(Early-Mid 90's), i was constantly stung by "silent rampant racism". When i was signed to Boss Models , here in New York. I was CONSTANTLY feel the sting of disapproval when i went on "go-sees", and "cattle-calls". There were many times that art directors,stylist,etc. for the companies that were hiring would see my brown face, and do one of three things
    1. Smile, look at my book with a vacant stare, and usher me along
    2. Roll there eyes as if saying "how dare you"
    3. Or just tell me up front "Your agency should not have sent you, your not what we are looking for"
    My first 6 months in the industry was this, over and over agian, ........until my father paid for a trip to Paris ( i was in college at the time, so this was to be my "spring break").
    I remember the first agency i went to, and the 2 reps were flabbergasted at my look, and immediately sent me out for work. This continued in London, Spain,and i manged to even sign on with an agency in Italy (though they felt my skin was NOT BLACK ENOUGH to "look like a black man" (thats a whole other subject). What was going to be 2 weeks, turned into 3 months, and when i came back to New York, I had a book that was so versatile and wonderful with tearsheets and comps from some of the most amazingly talented stylist,photographers,creative personal that Europe had to offer.( I literally came back to the states with 4 books, but me and my agent sit down and took all the strong shots, and made one book). I did this each summer, TONS of work in Europe,......barely NO WORK in the states.Reps here in New York could NOT see my range AS A MODEL,....CAUSE they could not see past the carmel brown skin color my mama gave me.I ran in to one of my agents recently, ( i have since grown dreads,and turned 40),and his response to me,"You could still model, you have a great look,you just need to cut your hair,those dreadlocs make you look savage and scary",...(He actually said those exact words).
    Suddenly, i recalled all the harsh racism i encountered, and told him to "Go to HELL",..and walked off,....that felt so wonderful.
    Thank you so much for telling our story, not just a model story,...but our story as a people,..breaking down one more wall.


  10. Hey im so happy i read this... I am new to the whole modeling scene, and reading this makes me want to go into fashion even more... step out side the box... or step out side the box that others created for me i should say... if you have any tips for me.. please feel free to hit me up... JL davis