HONG KONG — After internet critics labeled her previous work demeaning to the Chinese people and fashion house Dior pulled one of her images from a show in Shanghai, a well-known Chinese fashion photographer has apologized.
Chen Man recognized the criticism of her earlier work, such as “Young Pioneers,” a series of photographs of a young model against backdrops of key monuments like China’s gigantic Three Gorges Dam or an image of the country’s first lunar orbiter flying out from beneath her skirts.
The criticism was highlighted by the state-owned Global Times newspaper, which said that comments on social media had referred to her work as “implicit child pornography and disrespecting the young pioneers,” a Communist Party-affiliated youth group.
“I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting and blaming myself for my stupidity and ignorance at the time. “I believe I still need to properly apologize to everyone,” Chen said on her social media account last week.
“I was born and bred in China, and I adore my homeland.” “she penned “And I am acutely aware that, as an artist, I bear a responsibility to the purpose of recording and disseminating the culture of the Chinese people.”
She joins a long list of Chinese and foreign celebrities, companies, and artists who have issued public apologies in the wake of negative coverage in state media. Some people have been boycotted for refusing to apologize or for making insufficient apologies.
The portrait was criticized by critics for being in violation of East Asian beauty standards of pale complexion and for perpetuating Western preconceptions of Asian looks, such as slanted eyes.
At least one picture editor has previously lauded her work for developing a look that was neither Western nor Japanese or South Korean in nature. In 2019, the Global Times dubbed Chen “China’s Annie Leibovitz,” describing her as “a Chinese Annie Leibovitz.” “With a distinct vision, she is a “shining star.”
The image was taken down by Dior, who said that it was part of an art project and not advertising. Dior stated it “respects the emotions of Chinese people” and “strictly abides by Chinese rules and regulations” in a statement on its Chinese social media account.
Other luxury companies have been involved in problems in China in the past. A Dolce & Gabbana campaign in 2018 aroused uproar as the Asian model in the ad was told to eat spaghetti, cannolis, and pizza with chopsticks. Later, the videos were taken off.
Chen stated on social media that she accepts criticism of her work, even that for a specific brand, but did not name Dior.
The portrait that was removed from the Shanghai show was photographed in the same way as a series of covers Chen created for the British fashion magazine i-D, which featured 12 young Chinese ladies from various ethnic groups. Many of the ladies did not suit the Chinese concept of beauty – some had tiny eyes, while others had freckles.
In a 2018 post for the state-backed English-language features website, Ding Yining, a photo editor at Sixth Tone, commended Chen’s work.
“I feel that as a professional visual artist, I should assist more people to recognize the face of modern Chinese beauty with more confidence,” Chen told Sixth Tone.