Parasol: Shielding Sun and The Complexity of Skin Tone

Thursday, December 13, 2012

- Set 1 of 10 Images: Contemporary Photographer Ross Oscar Knight Converses with History and “sheds light” on identity. 

From French parasol, from Italian parasole, from para- (“to shield”) + sole (“sun”)

A parasol is a light, small umbrella that is used (typically by women) for protection from the sun. It is made of various fabrics, from cotton to silk. The first parasols are recorded to have been made nearly 5,000 years ago in the East Indies. In the 16th century the parasol was introduced to Europe by way of the Italian renaissance.

“The parasol is most often thought of with Victorian society in England and the U.S. Perhaps the chief reason for its popularity at the time was the Victorian admiration (or obsession) for a fair complexion. It was more than a sign of beauty; it proved to the world that a woman was a lady, who didn’t have to work outdoors like ‘common’ females did.” (quoting Sara’s Parasol’s)

In the 1920’s, parasols lost popularity when skin tanning became more accepted for status symbols. Darker skin in some cultures proved that one had the free time to stay at the beach or on vacation indefinitely. Not until the 1990’s did increased awareness about skin cancer and harsh UV rays bring a resurgence of taking better care of one’s skin.

Today, many brides carry parasols for fashion while some still use the umbrellas as an elegant accessory for sun protection.

The image I took in Savannah in 2009 shows a bride leading her bridesmaids through a moss tree filled park. The parasols are being used as a fashion statement and coordinate with the bride’s flowers and the bridesmaid’s dresses.

After looking at these two images, what do you notice?  What does this image speak to you about love, marriage, skin tone, status, history, identity…and yourself.
We’d love to hear your thoughts.

-Ross Oscar Knight

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The series was inspired by the contemporary images of 50 SHADES OF BLACK special contributor and fusion/destination wedding photographer Ross Oscar Knight.

*LOVE AND MARRIAGE:  A New Series by 50 SHADES OF BLACK - a project exploring sexuality and the complexity of skin tone in the shaping of identity.

  • Title Image 1: Carrying bride to home of bridegroom, Chosen (Korea)
  • Date Created/Published: c1919 Dec. 18.
  • Medium: 1 photographic print on stereo card : stereograph.
  • Repository: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA
  • Title Image 2: Bride and Bridesmaids in Savannah, GA
  • Date Created/Published: July 25, 2009
  • Medium: Digital