• Viola Davis was photographed by Dario Calmese for the cover of 'Vanity Fair'. (Getty Images, Twitter)Source: Getty Images, Twitter
Dario Calmese transmutes the white gaze on Black bodies "into something of elegance and beauty and power" with the magazine's new cover story featuring Viola Davis.
SBS staff writers

16 Jul 2020 - 11:43 AM  UPDATED 16 Jul 2020 - 11:43 AM

For the first time since it was first published in 1914, fashion magazine powerhouse Vanity Fair has hired a Black photographer to shoot its cover story, featuring Academy Award winning actor Viola Davis.

The magazine's July/August 2020 cover story, titled “My Entire Life Has Been a Protest” hit the stands this week, featuring a regal portrait of Davis taken by prominent fashion photographer Dario Calmese. 

In an Instagram post following the story’s publication, Calmese thanked his cover star “for being [his] co-conspirator.”

He went on to thank the Vanity Fair team, including editor-in-chief Radhika Jones, for the opportunity and for “believing in [his] vision."

“Thank you to every black woman who’s felt invisible despite being on the front line of every fight. We see you. You are loved, you are powerful, and you are beautiful. This is for you,” he wrote.

Speaking to the New York Times, Calmese revealed that he had drawn on history to create the cover image, with a striking 1863 photograph of an enslaved man, back covered with whip marks, the inspiration behind Davis's pose and turning it "into something of elegance and beauty and power."

“He pushes back more toward the camera," Calmese explained.

"His hand is at his waist - you know that line, with his profile going down the arm and coming back. So I was like: I can recreate this.”

Vanity Fair's editor-in-chief Radhika Jones, who succeeded Graydon Carter two and a half years ago, said in her letter from the editor that only 17 Black people have graced the cover of the magazine “in the 35 years between 1983 and 2017.

“This is [Calmese’s] first major magazine cover, and we celebrate him and honour his vision at this heightened moment in American history,” Jones concluded.

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