Imagery, powerful, extraordinary. Photography imagery when used to persuade viewers touches both the conscious and unconscious parts of the mind, aiming to convince. Imagery, both connotative and denotative, instills and reinforces negative or positive stereotypes.
Many Americans, Black and White, find themselves pursuing the “American Dream”. Yet at the same time, Black Americans are shaping their dreams within the binary of the “American Dream”. I wish to explore what the American Dream resembles from the perspective of Black Americans. Had freedom existed, what would our dream look like under other circumstances outside of the post-colonial and slave narrative? Had freedom existed, how would Black Americans have defined our own dreams and our identities?
Freedom entails having autonomy over the image of oneself or ourselves and the perpetuation of those images. Freedom is a theme encapsulated within these photos by the abstraction of space and the bodies becoming sculptural objects of beauty. Freedom also means exploring the idea of being without a connection to the concrete world. I create pictures of Black bodies in a way which allows Black people to reclaim the power in the relationship between the viewer and the subject.
We cannot detach the idea of African pessimism from the discourse surrounding our views of the African Diaspora: Black Americans. Due to the negative imagery of Black people that is frequently perpetuated throughout mass media, negative visual narratives of violence, darkness, brokenness, and ultimately damnation, interject distance between the viewer and Black people. These images create negative generalities and the proliferation of these images desensitizes viewers, helping to re-enforce the notion of that Blacks are undesirable, less than human, or “the other” that “Blackness” often depicts. The imagery, rather than invoking empathy, compassion or sympathy, sadly confirms negative stereotypes serving for widen or support the division between the Whites and Blacks.
On the other hand, White bodies are depicted and perpetuated through paintings, sculptures and photography as being a normal beauty standard. Black skin and Black bodies should be normalized and seen as beautiful as well.
Freedom means autonomy over self and power to reclaim your own identity and shape it by your own means. Therefore, these series are a discussion of the subversion of the gaze, the rejection of fetishization, and the creation of a new narrative surrounding Black imagery. This series is an ode to positive depictions of Black bodies. Typically, in the context of the media, Black people’s bodies are exploited and seen as purely sexual objects, objects of entertainment or tools of labor. The series encourages the viewer to look through a different lens when examining the Black body.