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Let us count the ways in which this photo shoot is deeply racist and insulting.
In the age of Instagram and wedding hashtags, having any semblance of originality in your nuptials is no easy feat. However, it’s probably best to stick to a “wreck the dress” photo shoot, instead of, oh, I don’t know, using a foreign country and its people as your kitschy, stylish background.
Photographer John Milton has fled from Instagram after he and his wife’s 2017 wedding photos received criticism for having done just that. The photos, taken in the Democratic Republic of Congo, follow a narrative of the couple saying their vows “atop of an active Congolese volcano with a local tribe while a civil war is brewing.”
In some of the photos, Milton and his bride kneel at the opening of a volcano, with soldiers pointing their rifles at the couple. In others, Milton’s bride poses on a road as Congolese people look on, and straddles a bike with more Congolese people in the background to show that she is “just cruising thru the ghetto.” One photo, titled “blood diamonds,” shows Milton’s wife’s wedding ring resting upon an AK47, an apparent reference to diamonds mined during war.
What in the fresh yt hell is this mayo encrusted bullshit?There are literally too many things wrong, here…the audacity of the caucasity
While Milton had posted these photos to his Instagram account about a year ago, controversy over his photos brewed Monday when Facebook user Cecilia Christin found Milton’s account and shared screenshots of the offending posts. Christin told Business Insider that she didn’t know the couple, but that she had found a post of Milton’s on her Instagram Discover through her own travel-themed Instagram account.
“What in the fresh yt hell is this mayo encrusted bullshit? There are literally too many things wrong, here,” Christin wrote, before tagging the Facebook page “The audacity of the caucasity.”
In the screenshots, a comment section of one of the photos shows Milton stating that he asked the soldiers to point their rifles at him and his wife because they “just wanted to make sure we didn’t have the typical goofy wedding shots.”
“I decided to share these pictures in order to foster discussion within my friends and following, specifically about the accessorization [sic] of black bodies for this couple’s photo shoot,” Christin told Insider. She said found the couple’s use of “Black and brown people and their experiences as props to gain a following” to be an issue.
No matter how Milton, who described himself on Instagram as an “African tribes junkie,” tried to frame his wedding photos, it’s clear that he and his wife used people from the Democratic Republic as props to decorate their photographs. That’s not even addressing Milton calling areas “ghetto;” commissioning the help of sherpas, a chef, a local tribe, and a Congolese minister; evoking blood diamonds; and acting out the violence of a civil war for the entertainment of their wedding photographs.
People in countries that you’re visiting aren’t props—they’re people. Despite Milton’s new life as an international photographer who “survived Colombian narco [sic] rebels” and went “‘undercover’ in Afghanistan” (after having been an investment banker for 20 years), it seems he had yet to learn such an obvious lesson.
On Facebook, commenters denounced Milton’s and his wife’s photos, calling them distasteful and “dumb.”
“I do not claim these Caucasians. This just screams distasteful and the ‘ghetto’ caption and photo is just so wrong,” one user wrote.
“Brought to you by the same folks who will marry on a plantation,” another person commented. “I’m not shocked when white people so blatantly disrespect people of color, but I am shocked when others are.”
As of Tuesday, Milton’s Instagram account, 30.raw, has gone dark. But that hasn’t stopped critics from going in on his photos on Twitter.
Poverty porn? War porn? I don't even know what the fuck you'd call these absolute deadshits pic.twitter.com/qnQuPlIzzx
— Bri (@briiilliant) October 23, 2018
This might be the single worst thing white people have done since the last terrible thing they did which was probably only an hour ago pic.twitter.com/SrurW1cyhw
— Congolesa Rice (@judeinlondon2) October 23, 2018
— ❄Mikki Kendall❄ (@Karnythia) October 23, 2018
With any hope, this fierce online backlash may bring Milton and his wife to take a closer look at how they interact with the people of the countries that they visit.
Samantha Grasso is a former IRL staff writer for the Daily Dot with a reporting emphasis on immigration. Her work has appeared on Los Angeles Magazine, Death And Taxes, Revelist, Texts From Last Night, Austin Monthly, and she has previously contributed to Texas Monthly.