The Italian photographer and winner of the Cherrydeck Creators Award, Silvia Rocchino, shares Strange Fruit: a series inspired by the song sang by Billie Holiday protesting American racism.
Silvia Rocchino’s series Strange Fruit is a visual representation of the historical song with the same name performed most famously by Billie Holiday, who first sang and recorded it in 1939.
Originally written by the jewish teacher Abel Meeropol as a poem and published in 1937, the song protests American racism, in particular the lynching of African Americans:
“Southern trees bear a strange fruit
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root
Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze
Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees
Pastoral scene of the gallant South
The bulging eyes and the twisted mouth
Scent of magnolia, sweet and fresh
Then the sudden smell of burning flesh
Here is a fruit for the crows to pluck
For the rain to gather, for the wind to suck
For the sun to rot, for the tree to drop
Here is a strange and bitter crop.“
Adopting the pseudonym of Lewis Allan to publish the poem in the newspaper of the teacher’s union in New York, Abel related in an allusive and subtle way to the significance of being black in the United States in the 1930s.
The poetry becomes a song when, in 1939, the black singer Laura Duncan played it in Madison Square Gardens and after her Billie Holiday, who was only 23 years old at the time, sang the song for the first time.
At the time of writing, Lewis Allan was inspired by a photograph that portrayed the bodies of Thomas Shipp and Abrámosles Smith, both blacks, hanged from an Arbore (Marion, Indiana, USA 1930).
Just like this poetry was born from the inspiration that Abel got from a picture, my photographic series was conceived following the emotions that poetry created in me.
Using symbolism like him, I introduce in every picture a representative element. The half violet pomegranate symbolises the strange fruit, while the head presence of the body alludes to the physical violence that black people had to suffer. The vegetable covering the head of the model represents the condition of slavery in the plantations where a great part of black people in America were forced to spend their life in degrading work conditions.
In the last photo, there is a white girl in the foreground and hidden behind her there’s a black girl. Even if the position favours the first, the light almost doesn’t touch her, illuminating the black-skinned girl and suggesting that the value and dignity of a person has nothing to do with the position they have in society.Silvia Rocchino
Silvia Rocchino is an Italian photographer based in Barcelona, Spain. Her Degree in Photography and Master in Creative and Contemporary Photography gave her the necessary ground to approach Fashion and Fine Art through a thick and personal filter. From 2015 to 2019, Silvia was published in several fashion editorials including Flanelle Magazine and Vogue.