A royal photographer has accused a store of racism over a “triggering” photograph of a tobacco plantation hanging at the point of sale in the shop.
On Tuesday, fashion photographer Missan Harriman, who has shot official portraits of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, shared footage of his visit to Farrants store in Cobham, Surrey in U.K.
I just went to Cobham to get my kids some toys and went into a shop called @Farrants_Cobham
There is a MASSIVE picture that is pride of place at the point of payment. It is an image of black men, broken black men at a tobacco plantation with their overseers next to them?!?! I… pic.twitter.com/QZnrzJlCde
— Misan Harriman (@misanharriman) August 8, 2023
In the video, which has amassed 2.4 million views on Twitter, Harriman reveals how he was shopping for toys for his daughters at Farrants store.
But the photographer was left “speechless” when he saw a large black-and-white photo that appears to show Black people working on a tobacco plantation overseen by white men.
The blown-up sepia image, covering a wall behind a cash desk, was being used to sell cigars and includes the words: “We sell tobacco.”
“I just went to Cobham to get my kids some toys and went into a shop called @Farrants_Cobham.” Harriman writes on Twitter.
“There is a massive picture that is pride of place at the point of payment. It is an image of Black men, broken Black men at a tobacco plantation with their overseers next to them. I kid you not!”
‘Triggering and Racist’
Harriman, who captured the first official portrait of Harry’s and Meghan’s daughter Princess Lilibet, says he could not believe a modern store could use an image of oppression to promote its products.
The photographer, who became the first Black male photographer to shoot a British Vogue cover in the magazine’s then-105-year history in September 2020 — adds that he was fortunate that he was not shopping for toys with his daughters at the time.
“This is in a family store, this imagery is massive triggering and racist. And there is no conceivable reason it should be there,” the photographer tweets.
“I’m so thankful I wasn’t with my girls. How on earth could anyone have shopped there and found that image acceptable?”
Farrants is a popular store in Cobham, which sells sweets, toys, and magazines. The store, which was founded in 1896, also has a specialist tobacco room selling cigars and accessories.
It was later revealed that former Netherlands and Chelsea soccer player Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink had complained in 2020 about the same photograph in Farrants.
On Instagram, Hasselbaink shared that he had complained to the store’s owner David Worsfold three years ago. The soccer player said he was told that the store would replace the image but it never did.
‘The Picture is Gone’
According to The Telegraph, Worsfold has confirmed that the photograph, which was taken in 1907 and shows a tobacco plantation in Cuba, has since been removed from Farrants.
The store’s owner also says that has personally apologized to Hasselbaink for not acting sooner. He adds that he had just “never got around” to taking it down when the soccer player first asked him to replace the photograph.
“The picture is gone, it’s all over. The last thing I want to do is upset any of my customers,” Worsfold tells The Telegraph.
Worsfold also says that he had wished the royal photographer had approached him over the image directly — rather than sharing the footage with his 58,000 followers on Twitter.
“I just wish that Mr. Harriman had come and had a word with me, I think with having that number of followers that you have a bit of a responsibility… but he had a point and I apologized.”
‘There is No Slavery Depicted’
In a further statement to ITV News, Worsfold also explained that there is no depiction of slavery in the photograph in the store.
“There is no slavery depicted. And as a homage to all the people who helped create cigars,” Worsfold tells the news outlet.
“Unlike other crop harvesting industries, the tobacco plantation owners of Cuba refused to use slave labor, insisting instead on employing free men.
“This image was selected as the main display feature in our store to honor, respect, and recognize the ground-breaking work undertaken by all those involved in the development of the iconic Havana cigars available in our Tobacco Room today.
“The photograph, which we have cropped for our display, was taken at the Pinar del Rio plantation in 1907 and is one of the earliest examples of shade-grown tobacco cultivation — a revolutionary technique used to ensure the quality of the outer leaf or “wrapper” of the cigar.
“Unlike other crop harvesting industries, the tobacco plantation owners of Cuba refused to use slave labor, insisting instead on employing free men.”
Image credits: Header photo licensed via Twitter/@misanharriman.