Jim Naughten: Conflict and Costume – William Meyers
April 5, 2013
The emphasis in Jim Naughten's 2012 photos of the Herero people of Namibia is on their clothing, which is adopted from that of their former colonial occupiers and has elements relating to their own pastoral heritage. Their land was claimed by Germany from 1884 until the end of World War I; when they rebelled, the Germans waged a war of extermination against them. As many as 85% of the Herero were killed; some in combat, many by being driven into the desert and deprived of water, others in extermination camps.
The Herero women wear gowns modeled after the Victorian outfits their people first encountered more than 100 years ago. They have brightly colored full skirts that fall to the ground, leg-of-mutton sleeves and unique headgear of the same material made to stick out like cattle horns. Mr. Naughten (b. 1968) photographed them outdoors with the white sand of the desert and clear blue skies as backdrops, and used a low vantage point to draw attention to their dignified postures. The men wear ersatz military uniforms made from bits of this and that; there are faux insignia, epaulettes, captain's caps (including one made out of cardboard) and simulated greaves. A cadet wears a plaid kilt and bonnet, maybe in reference to the British who succeeded the Germans. In one dramatic image, two dozen Herero women in long red skirts, full black blouses, and their unique red headgear parade across the desert.
—Mr. Meyers writes on photography for The Wall Street Journal.
See his work at williammeyersphotography.com.