Edward Curtis: Navajo Medicine Man, Princess Angeline, Hopi Mother

These faces from another time in the work of Edward Curtis are an act of photographic conscience.
Multicultural advertising has traditionally been the domain of smaller agencies. But over time, the category has become important to the long-term success - and the survival - of brands in the Canadian marketplace.
Sensing opportunity, a few big mainstream agencies have muscled into the space and begun stealing everyone else's lunch. This is unsurprising. And, the truth is it could be a shot in the arm for the category, if it grows awareness and intelligence and adds to the discipline overall.
But the question is, does Goliath get it? Do these shops truly know what they are doing? Do they have the experience, skills and sensitivity to counsel clients with integrity and courage around the thornier issues? Can they keep their giant feet out of their giant mouths? Or are they bulls in the proverbial (multicultural) china shop?
Like any David, I want to know what I'm up against and regularly go walkabout on the wild woolly web in search of giant scat. Precisely such a journey, led me to visit the website of one major Canadian mainstream agency, wherein I found this pithy phrase: Our dedicated team of multicultural Asian and South Asian market specialists can effectively grow your business within Canada’s wealth of diverse communities. Fluent in the languages and cultures we target (including Asian and South Asian), we blend research-based insights with personal experience to create work... (etc etc)
I'd like to tell them what's wrong with this, but where to begin. And which language I should use? Asian or South Asian? (Clearly English isn't their strong suit - my most generous analysis tells me this could be a Case of The Dangling Modifier but surely Big Mainstream knows English). No, I think I've understood the point. So here goes.
Dear Big Mainstream,
Your little blurb raises some important questions.
#1: Who speaks Asian? And where do they speak it?
#2: Who speaks South Asian? And where do they speak it?
#3: How can I become "fluent in cultures"?
#4: What exactly is a "multicultural Asian"?
#5. Did you just tell me you're an expert in the polka-dotted and pin-striped market because a bunch of polka-dotted and pin-striped people work for you? Because I think that's what you're saying. You know, the "personal experience" bit.
Oh dear. Slingshot empty. Time to find another Goliath.
Gavin Barrett is Ideawallah at Barrett and Welsh, a Toronto agency that specializes in the new Canada.

May you be prosperous. May you be happy.
A warm wish for the entire lunar new year from your friends at Barrett and Welsh. (Home of the rare and auspicious tartan turban sheep.)

A thought-provoking pair of explorations into beauty and ethnic/racial identity: earlier in 2014, journalist Esther Honig sent a self portrait to photoshop artists across the world asking them to "make her beautiful". 

The results, perhaps unsurprisingly, reveal the impact of culture and ethnicity and a huge variety of beauty ideals/standards. http://www.estherhonig.com/#!before--after-/cvkn 

Now, biracial journalist Priscilla Yuki Wilson does the same with very different results. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/09/08/priscilla-yuki-wilson-different-countries-photoshop_n_5775200.html?ncid=fcbklnkushpmg00000063

NOVEMBER  21ST, 2011   |  Vol. 23 |   Issue 45  |  Circulation: 100,000  
An Australian Definition of a Canadian
You probably missed it in the local news, but there was a report a few years back that someone in Pakistan had advertised in a newspaper an offer of a reward to anyone who killed a Canadian - any Canadian.

An Australian dentist wrote the following editorial to help define what a Canadian is, so they would know one when they found one:

FlagA Canadian can be English or French or Italian, Irish, German, Spanish, Polish, Russian or Greek. A Canadian can be Mexican, African, Indian, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Australian, Iranian, Asian, Arab, Pakistani or Afghan. A Canadian may also be a Cree, M├ętis, Mohawk, Blackfoot, Sioux or one of the many other tribes known as native Canadians. A Canadian's religious beliefs range from Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, Muslim, Hindu or none.

In fact, there are more Muslims in Canada than in Afghanistan. The key difference is that in Canada they are free to worship as each of them chooses. Whether they have a religion or no religion, each Canadian ultimately answers only to God, not to the government or to armed thugs claiming to speak for the government and for God.

A Canadian lives in one of the most prosperous lands in the history of the world. The root of that prosperity can be found in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which recognized the right of each person to the pursuit of happiness. A Canadian is generous and Canadians have helped out just about every other nation in the world in their time of need, never asking a thing in return. Canadians welcome the best of everything, the best products, the best books, the best music, the best food, the best services and the best minds. But they also welcome the least - the oppressed, the outcast and the rejected.

These are the people who built Canada. You can try to kill a Canadian if you must as other blood-thirsty tyrants in the world have tried, but in doing so, you could just be killing a relative or a neighbour. This is because Canadians are not a particular people from a particular place. They are the embodiment of the human spirit of freedom. Everyone who holds to that spirit, everywhere, can be a Canadian.  


In March 2013, David Brown who is Managing Editor at Marketing Magazine asked me to write an article about the best multicultural advertising in the world - or to put it more simply, the best advertising in the world.

I said yes, of course, sensing an opportunity to let loose one of my favourite rants. You see, audiences exposed to advertising of Cannes-dominating stature in their home countries immigrate to Canada only to discover that they are being addressed like idiots. (If immigrants were so stupid, why would they have picked Canada?) And do marketers imagine that immigrants from the largest television and online media consumption markets in the world don’t notice their lack of commitment to connect with them in those media here — or the substandard, step-sisterly low-budget production values when they do? Etc etc.

Well, I worked myself up into a pretty lather. Probably as close as I will ever come to being the man your man wants to be aka Isaiah Mustafa.

Anyway, here's a link to the full article, on Marketing Magazine's website.

And if you like to see how we carry the torch for intelligent multicultural creative here in Canada, click here to view our multicultural work on our website.


Ever since I worked with Bruno Barbey in the mid-90s I have been fascinated with the photographic resplendence radiated by all things Moroccan. Imagine my delight when photographer friend and collaborator Richard Picton drew my attention to the extraordinary vibrant work of the Morocco-born Londoner, Hassan Hajaj, in a Guardian photo feature. With self-assembled frames made from rubber, cloth, plastic, toys, tile and popcans, and portraits that are equal measures of pigment, people and pattern, Hajaj dazzles the heart of the eye where colour lives.

photos via the Guardian, the Sultan Gallery, What's up and other sources.

Note: All copyright belongs to the artists/owners of the copyrights themselves.
Years ago, I tried to work with Magnum photographer Steve McCurry and contacted Magnum to bring him to Canada to work on a BMO campaign. Alas, it didn't work out - logistics and availability didn't dovetail neatly enough for the client. 
In the end, I went with Robert Earnest who won several awards for the photography on that campaign. (Will share those at some point.)

Steve McCurry is an artist whose paintbrush is opportunity, that most fickle of mistresses. The result is a series of extremely gratifying retinal explosions. 

Rang bharela, rang be rangey we would say in India (one of McCurry's favourite subjects): stuffed with colour, colour upon colour, bursting with colour.

Do not rub your eyes. This is real. 

Note: All copyright belongs to the artists/owners of the copyrights themselves.

Article: Creative Commons License 2012 Gavin Barrett
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.5 Canada License.

Shared with me by noted photographer Richard Picton, this typographic development is a worthy addition to the centuries-old interaction between the English language and Indian languages.

The Hinglish Project helps English-speaking tourists wrap their heads around the unfamiliar Devanagari script so often seen across the top half of the subcontinent.

And it's free to download. Enjoy, font hoarders.

The Hinglish Project | Type for you.:

'via Blog this'
In this series of posts on great multicultural photography, I must confess to a deliberate, simple editorial decision - I use the word multicultural to simply mean subjects that are not Western European or white Anglo-American. All other cultures, ethnicities and traditions have been included. 

However, I have not viewed photographers through the same lens as their photography. These images have been shot by great photographers from around the world. There are French and Chinese photographers, Indians and Italians, Americans and Brazilians - all that matters to me is that their eyes saw the wealth we have been blessed with. All copyright belongs to the artists/owners of the copyrights themselves.

Ladies and gentlemen, Irving Penn.

Irving Penn
It's funny, but I haven't addressed multicultural photography much on this blog. It's about time I rectified that. There is brilliant stuff out there. In fact, the best photography has always been truly multicultural. From Steve McCurry's Afghan girl  to Penn's Chinese food and Salgado's Brazilian miners and Indian ship-graveyard-workers, to the work Richard Picton has done for us and others (his black women boxers will knock you out) to Chen Man's 12-month ode to Chinese beauty for the cover of i-D magazine on the occasion of the Year of the Dragon. Without further ado, here is a sampling of Chen Man's work. More photography posts to follow. I promise. Enjoy, but you might have to send your eyes to detox later. I mean that in a drugs-are-good kind of way. Speaking strictly as a non-user.

Via It's Nice That
Photos via The Bohmerian

All copyright belongs to the artists/owners of the copyrights themselves.

The Irani restaurant is one of Bombay's great multicultural traditions, serving hearty working-class meals, hot tea and colonial throwbacks like bread pudding studded with sultanas. Irani restauranteurs demanded tolerance and mutual respect from their multi-faith clientele; demands were typically delivered via idiosyncratic exhortations hand-lettered on placards and strategically placed in key areas - at the cashier (No Bargaining), over mirrors (No Hair Combing), on the menu (No Beef), - and my favourite - on walls, mirrors or wherever space allowed (All Gods are Great).

To honour the spirit of this supreme Irani restaurant directive, I thought I would celebrate with a gallery of good and/or provocative festival advertising for this holiday season post - a sort of "best of all gods" approach. I hope you enjoy them (let me know which ones are your favourites - or send in your own). A Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukkah, A Chillin' Kwanzaa and a Freakin' Fantastic Festivus to you.

Or whatever particular wish rings your bell, rocks your boat, or turns your crank baby.


Article: Creative Commons License 2011 Gavin Barrett, all images are the property of their respective copyright holders. Irani restaurant photograph from IraniChai, via flickr and Wikipedia contributor belasd.

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.5 Canada License.

Popular Posts

Copyright Gavin Barrett. Powered by Blogger.

Plagiarism Watch!

Protected by Copyscape DMCA Copyright Protection