Nikon South Africa fails spectacularly to show that Black Lives Matter

Nikon South Africa fails spectacularly to prove that Black Lives Matter
(Image credit: Nikon)

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, 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 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 led to calls for a boycott of Nikon equipment by photographers and agencies in South Africa (Image credit: Twitter @TheNduna)

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 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. We can only hope that the industry actually learns from these experiences, so that it can finally get things right.

Read more: 

Black Lives Matter: Nikon appoints new POC ambassadors and Fujifilm will follow
Nikon Z50 review
The best Nikon camera: including Nikon DSLRs, Nikon Z and Coolpix compacts

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James Artaius

The editor of Digital Camera World, James has 21 years experience as a journalist and started working in the photographic industry in 2014 (as an assistant to Damian McGillicuddy, who succeeded David Bailey as Principal Photographer for Olympus). In this time he shot for clients like Aston Martin Racing, Elinchrom and L'Oréal, in addition to shooting campaigns and product testing for Olympus, and providing training for professionals. This has led him to being a go-to expert for camera and lens reviews, photo and lighting tutorials, as well as industry news, rumors and analysis for publications like Digital Camera MagazinePhotoPlus: The Canon MagazineN-Photo: The Nikon MagazineDigital Photographer and Professional Imagemaker, as well as hosting workshops and talks at The Photography Show. He also serves as a judge for the Red Bull Illume Photo Contest. An Olympus and Canon shooter, he has a wealth of knowledge on cameras of all makes – and a fondness for vintage lenses and instant cameras.