Fashion Photographer Reinhardt Kenneth Talks Against Racism and Xenophobia

You started photographing at a very young age. Which one of your first photoshoots was the most important to you?

Reinhardt: I feel like I treat every photo shoot with so much memory and homage to it’s inspiration, creativity, and time & place when I shoot it. That being said, one of my favorite earlier shoot was titled “Halcyon”. One of the photographs, to this day, still remain on my portfolio pitch since it’s so sentimental and sort of started everything for me. It’s very humbling, looking back, as all I had was a camera and a bunch of old novels and dictionaries that my friend threw in the air while doing the most insane hair flips right next to my high school. It was featured as Photo Of The Day on Vogue Italia’s PhotoVogue (curated by Alessia Glaviano) and one of the other shots was reposted by the late Franca Sozzani herself. The particular photo shoot sort of changed everything forever for me.

"Halcyon" by Reinhardt Kenneth

My first major fashion shoot, “GARUDA” for Diana Couture’s debut campaign which we shot in the iconic Candi Borobudur in Jogjakarta, Indonesia remains as one of my strongest pieces in my portfolio to date. I just remember being so nervous that day because it was for Diana’s (my mom, actually) debut in New York Fashion Week. The rest is history, for the both of us, in the best, most magical, career-defining way.

"GARUDA” for Diana Couture by Reinhardt Kenneth

You have been discovered on Instagram by Franca Sozzani. What role did it play in your career?

Reinhardt: I was sixteen when that happened, and to be honest, I was like in one of my lowest moments of my adolescence. It was as if the world felt uncertain, but the universe and Franca herself sent me their stamp of approval, it was a sign and the biggest confidence booster. A year after, I was in a digital exhibition at The Louvre, followed by my move two years after that to LA, it really gave me the guts to pursue everything because someone that was so legendary was kind enough to do so.

What other photographers and artists influence your work?

Reinhardt: I like to describe my aesthetic as a mixture of the Botticelli woman, Dali’s surrealism, and Warhol’s culture and palette. The visionaries of the art world has truly helped me shape my aesthetic and context.

In terms of photographers, I have a wide variety of inspirations; from Nick Knight to Steven Meisel. I actually get a lot of “that’s very David LaChapelle” as compliments, and I love and adore his work greatly, but somehow his pieces were never really in my mood board. They’re just, way too good haha.

What was the most significant milestone in your career so far?

Reinhardt: I like to count every project as a blessing, but right now, definitely my Hate is a Virus fashion story. In my earlier years, I like doing commentaries on real world issues through fashion photography, however, nothing in the scale of this project. All the press and engagement it’s getting is truly spectacular. However, my biggest accomplishment through this shoot has been the ability to shed a light on such a horrible situation and give a platform and a voice to those who are hurting from the xenophobia.

"Hate is a Virus" campaign by Reinhardt Kenneth

Has your photography style changed in any way after moving to Los Angeles?

Reinhardt: I moved to LA in 2017, and now looking back, it wasn’t cohesive then. I would have my moments of pure transcendence; picturesque photographs featuring empowered women posed alongside raging white horses and gigantic albino boas that just captures your eye. However, the other half just felt a little pretentious to me now looking back. My first year in LA, believe it or not, almost all of my work were just bad. I was so obsessed with the lifestyle and the culture that ultimately, I lost myself as an artist. However, around 2018, I sort of reclaimed my transcendent aesthetics and now, I combine that with a more celebrity approach. I felt like in order to really find yourself, you have to lose yourself.

What are some of your favorite sources of inspiration?

Reinhardt: Global pandemics.

Lol, apart from the Hate is a Virus shoot, I’m inspired by a lot of pop culture, music, real world issues, fashion trends, cinema, mythology, culture, religion, and art. It really depends on the artistic direction I’m feeling.

Why did you choose to use your skill as a social advocacy tool?

Reinhardt: Personally, I believe that art is the most powerful tool, as it has the ability to break boundaries language may not be able to. It’s also unique, as all the audience would have different perspectives and experiences. In this situation, I’m utilizing my talent to voice my opinion and represent those who might be victims of hate in this challenging time to provide a safe platform and voice for them. I feel that everyone should speak up about this highly unfortunate situation and realize that it is not a time to be divided and play the blame game, but a time to come in unity and fight this virus together with kindness, love, and compassion. That being said, everyone should use their skills, talents, and voices in unique different ways to make a change.

Do you think people who are being racist about coronavirus are trying to fool themselves and think they have a smaller chance of getting the disease?

Reinhardt: I feel that they’re trying to blame this global pandemic on someone. Yes, the virus started in China, and regardless of any conspiracies, every hundred years, an outbreak always occurs. It’s been happening the last 400 years. The problem is that, it’s not anyone’s fault, it’s just a global devastation that there’s a virus that’s spreading like a wildfire. Yes, times might be rough and it might be easy to stab an Asian person because you “just got laid off”. The Asian person you’re blaming this pandemic on has NOTHING to do with the issue, and guess what, they’re starting a new issue by doing so. However, when you really look at the bigger picture, it’s just foolish. Guess what? COVID-19 does NOT discriminate, why are we trying to establish racism and create division?.

"Hate is a Virus" campaign by Reinhardt Kenneth

What, in your opinion, is the most effective way to fight racism and educate people about the value of each ethnicity and culture?

Reinhardt: In the end of the day, we all bleed red. We are all made up of flesh, skin, bones, and a soul. There’s absolutely no point in hating an entire race or culture due to a stereotype or a single person. Directing this conversation back to COVID-19 influenced xenophobia, let’s remember that the virus doesn’t have beautiful Asian features. There’s no “skin color” towards the virus, so why are we throwing this upon a particular ethnicity.

Do you think some people are going to be more xenophobic after the COVID-19 pandemic?

Reinhardt: The sad reality is that, yes, there will still be an outrage of hatred even after the pandemic. This is exactly why hate is a BIGGER virus. It’s so easy to blame an entire race, not responsible to a global pandemic in times of hardship. One thing everyone should remember is that this virus is an attack on the entire human race, all over the world, don’t let it become an attack on humanity as well and keep us divided.

In your opinion, what will be the most significant changes in fashion in the post-COVID-19 period?

Reinhardt: I feel that fashion won’t be as glamorous, at least in a few months. The problem is, it will prioritize functionality over creativity, at least for the time being. I’m sure due to social distancing, there won’t be fashion week for a while, and there will be less opportunities to put together looks and catwalk down the streets. All things aside, I feel that we should be highly focusing more on the state of our human race, so hopefully, more influential fashion icons would start using their voice to fight for change, because together, we can end the hate with love.


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