Vogue Thailand's November Issue cover featuring Naomi Campbell (above) was first posted to Facebook yesterday by photographer Marcin Tyszka, who shot the cover image and editorial spread. The response was immediate and in the tFS Forums, mostly unfavorable, with some members suggesting that the publication had whitewashed Campbell's skin: "Naomi was recently a guest on the Jonathan Ross show and her skin was beautifully dark," wrote Cosmic Voices. "It's such a shame that retouchers aren't only over-Photoshopping but in fact lightning skin tone."
The sentiment was echoed by a handful of outlets, most forcefully by The Gloss: "It’s hard not to see a racial side to this—they lightened her skin and eyes for god’s sake. This shows just how insidious beauty standards can be, and even a supermodel could be prettier. She could be less black."
Today, Vogue Thailand shared a screenshot (below) showing Tyszka's email response to a critic of the cover. The photographer didn't respond to charges of racism directly or discuss airbrushing, claiming the effect was "a question of [lighting] + make up" and that the "pastel tones" are his standard style.
"[I]f you see the rest of the story — all the pictures are like this," he wrote, "everything is light including her skin…she has perfect skin condition — no wrinkles at all — thats [sic] why we wanted to go for close up — to show how perfect her skin in. Naomi is always super sexy – our idea was to create the Prada  look — more light - pastel - sweet – soft."
Tyszka continued, saying that Campbell's agent "loved" the photos, as did "other supermodels." He did acknowledge that it may be "surprising to see her like this," but says the choices were intentional, that the look was created as a fashion statement: "This is what we wanted."
We've reached out to our friends at Vogue Thailand to confirm whether the photos were manipulated and will report back with their statement. [Update: The publication responded with a statement that you can read here.]
Update: While we were prepping this post, Tyszka shared the final version of Vogue Thailand's November cover, which will go live tomorrow. Campbell's skin is undeniably darker in the second image:
Follow-up with Vogue Thailand statement: Vogue Thailand Explains Its Controversial November Cover: We Had No Intention of Making Naomi Campbell Look ‘Whiter’ or ‘Pale’