HBO's 'Insecure' Has Revolutionized The Way Black People Appear On Camera

"Insecure" cast members
@insecurehbo via Instagram

Cameras don’t always show brown skin in the best light, and we live in a world where light skin and long hair is prioritized over dark skin and curly hair.

So how do people on Insecure look so good?

According to Ava Berkokfsky, Insecure’s director of photography,

“ The way I approach dark skin tone technically is all about the skin is reflective.

  •  One: Make sure the makeup artist uses a reflective base on the skin. 
  • Two: Give skin something to reflect. It’s not the amount or intensity of the light source, it’s the surface are of the light.
  • Three is: I use a polarizer, which is a filter that goes in front of the lens. This actually works really well when you’re lighting with, you know, a reflective surface on skin tone, because it can shape the light in a really pretty amazing, effective way.”

Ava further sheds light that in film school, some professors would teach students to throw blue and amber light onto their dark skin actors, but Ava does not agree with that.

She says that there’s not one shade that lights all types of dark skin, but it wasn’t always like this. Let’s back up to 40's, where Kodak would test the color accuracy of their film against pictures of women called Shirley cards.

Shirley models were very inclusive. They included white women. If the Shirley mode looked good in the photo, then everything else checked out. It was only in the 1970’s that Kodak addressed complaints about how the color brown appeared on film.

Not because of people of color, but because of wooden furniture companies complaining. Apparently, distinguishing shades of wood is more important than how black people look on film.

According to Ava, “apparently the conversations [ in film school] were always, like stressed about how lighting dark skin is “different,” which I always thought was messed-up way to see things, because it makes Caucasian skin the baseline that “different” is measured from.”

The amount of effort that Insecure’s crew puts in speaks to the importance of representing Black culture properly. It reminds us that Afrocentric features can not only look good, but they look [email protected] good!

Now it’s on the rest of Hollywood to keep in mind that black faces don’t have to be, and shouldn’t be, an afterthought.


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