UPDATE: Nicole Capper is no longer a Nikon influencer and has terminated her contract with the manufacturer.
ORIGINAL STORY (06 Aug 2020): In one of the most astonishingly tone-deaf moves in the aftermath of the Black Lives Matter movement, Nikon South Africa has caused outrage by announcing a team of seven new influencers – only one of whom is black.
The South African branch of Nikon was unveiling its new team of influencers for the Nikon Z50 (opens in new tab), yet amazingly had only appointed a single black photographer on the seven-strong team – despite the population of South Africa being over 76% black.
"We are excited to introduce our new Nikon Z50 influencers in South Africa," wrote Nikon South Africa (opens in new tab) in a now-deleted tweet from 24 July. "Over the next few months, we will be sharing their adventures and the moments they capture on their Nikon Z50’s. Watch this space..."
The post was accompanied by a video that was dominated by the white faces talking about the camera – Kyle Goetsch, Pieter Buckle, Nicole Capper, Liezel Volschenk, Izelle Hoffman and Simoné Pretorius – along with what felt like a token appearance by a token black face, Austin Malema, who was only shown to give his name.
The backlash was swift and scathing on social media. Amid the torrent of angry tweets, a number of photographers and agencies in South Africa joined a boycott of Nikon products that spread across Twitter with the hashtags #NoNikonOnSet and #BlackoutNikonOnSet.
After 11 days, Nikon SA finally responded (opens in new tab) to the outrage, but stopped short of actually apologizing (though it did say sorry to individual users who responded).
"We celebrate the power of creativity through imaging, embracing diverse ideas and differences among people and cultures. We recognize that our recent influencer program launched in South Africa fell short of portraying these values that we commit ourselves to embody and project as a brand. To ensure we are better reflecting the incredible range of talent in South Africa, we are re-strategizing our initiatives and will be updating the program to introduce additional creators. We are committed to promoting the power of photography and videography as a tool across all societies and communities."
It's an incredibly disappointing and damaging situation for Nikon as a brand, especially after Nikon USA was one of the first manufacturers to respond to the BLM movement by appointing two new POC ambassadors (opens in new tab). We can only hope that the industry actually learns from these experiences, so that it can finally get things right.
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