Albinism taboos destroyed through a photographic series

Albinism taboos destroyed through a photographic series


[Based on Feature Shoot]


  1. Congenital and inherited anomaly which appears in humans and in some vertebrates such as mammals, birds or fishes. It consists in a partial or total eyes, skin and hair’s depigmentation, which implies a much lighter color than normal, often even white. It causes a poor toleration both visual and cutaneous to light radiations.

In many parts of the world, the albinism reality gets often obscured by folklore, prejudice and false assumptions. In Tanzania and Burundi, living with skin depigmentation can be riskful and means being constantly hunted by shamans and witch doctors, convinced that albinos have supernatural powers. In South Africa, the life threats are far less harsh, but kids affected by this inherited anomaly are obliged to face public humiliation and discrimination in their school yards, and they often are seen as a curse by their own families. The South African photographer Justin Dingwall has collaborated with Thando Hopa, lawyer, and Sanele Saba, model, both affected by albinism, in order to create “Albus”, an hymn to aesthetic and spiritual beauty of human body.

Albus faces an important theme which has remained a taboo in many cultures, and aims to subvert centuries of bigotry towards albino men and women in Africa and in the rest of the world.

“This isn’t a series about race”, adds Dingwall, but about the aesthetic power and grace that so often comes with being dissimilar; “I find difference very inspiring”, says the artist. But praising diversity, “Albus” runs much deeper than contemporary fashion that depicts albino models as strong, sharp, or as the photographer says, “odd”.

“Albus” conjures up a wealth of religious and secular iconography that weave together a nuanced and diaphanous tale of rebirth and renewal. Hopa plays the role of Virgin Mary; Saba gets baptized in water before getting crowned by butterflies and snakes, both symbolizing metamorphosis. Finally, he breaks through a web of myth and violence to reveal the serenity and truth that lay beneath.

All images are property of © Justin Dingwall

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