Viola Davis covers the latest issue of Vanity Fair and the magazine used a black photographer to snap a cover for the very first time in their history. Dario Calmese, whose first VF assignment was a feature on Billy Porter just over a year ago, was handed the overdue opportunity from editor in chief Radhika Jones.
“Our mission at Vanity Fair is to capture the zeitgeist,” Jones writes in her editor’s letter. “We feel that responsibility especially keenly at this moment, when it seems as if our ways of seeing each other may be shifting, finally. What can one person’s face on a magazine cover accomplish, in this context? It can add to our pantheon of people whose work and ambition we aspire to. That is no small thing.”
She continued: “This is [Calmese’s] first major magazine cover, and we celebrate him and honor his vision at this heightened moment in American history, writes Jones. No amount of praise or censure affects me, in my current role, so much as the hope that our choices might inspire a young person—a future actor, director, photographer, writer—to pursue their own creative vision or imagine themself in our pages.”
Calmese describes the concept of his Viola Davis cover as “a re-creation of the Louis Agassiz slave portraits taken in the 1800s—the back, the welts. The image reclaims that narrative, transmuting the white gaze on Black suffering into the Black gaze of grace, elegance, and beauty.”
The issue hits stands on July 21st.