(Courtesy of Maxine Helfman)
(Courtesy of Maxine Helfman)
(Courtesy of Maxine Helfman)

(CNN) — Photographer Maxine Helfman didn’t foresee the current outcry around civil rights in America back in 2012, when she began shooting portraits in the style of the old Flemish master painters — using only black models.

Placing people of color within a portrait style that historically was the domain of the European elite is a political statement on inequality couched in a beautiful tableau.

Helfman’s subjects in the “Historical Correction” series wear the same aloof expressions of 17th-century noblemen and women in portraits commissioned from artists like Frans Hals. Light plays across their faces, white collars and billowing black vestments in a manner familiar to followers of the Dutch and Flemish masters.

The difference is that their faces are varying shades of brown.


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