Consciously challenging the stereotypes of Black identity, the participating artists counter-argue against homogeneous representation of people of colour. The photographs shown here serve as a form of visual activism. It’s a perspective often seen from this loose movement of emerging talents who are creating photography in vastly different contexts – New York and Johannesburg, Lagos, and London. A salon wall featuring images created by many other young Black photographers signals the expanding presence of this movement in visual culture today. The results – often made in collaboration with Black models, stylists and fashion designers – present new outlooks on the medium of photography, and the notions of race and beauty, gender and power.
The exhibition presents selected works by groundbreaking contemporary artists whose vibrant portraits and conceptual images merge the genres of art and fashion photography in ways that break down long-established image-making boundaries. Their work has been widely consumed in traditional lifestyle magazines, ad campaigns, and museums, as well as on their individual social-media channels, re-infusing the contemporary visual vocabulary around beauty and the body with new vitality and substance. These images open up conversations around the representation of Black bodies and Black lives as subject matters. Collectively, they celebrate people of colour’s creativity and the cross-pollination between art, style, and culture.
“ Family is not always biological, but most of the time a feeling, a conformability, a learning, and a continuous growth. ”
“ I love the idea of seeing Black people represented in an abstract way. It’s important to me to continue to reject the notion that Black expression is limited — or limiting. ”
“ As a Black female artist, I make a conscious effort to depict Black women because they are ultimately a reflection of myself. ”
“ In my work, I try to create alternatives. It’s a form of activism. ”
“ Blackness can get pigeon-holed into a one-dimensional viewpoint, but in reality, it is as diverse as the galaxies in the universe. ”
“ Everywhere in the world, the current generation is keen on just believing in their crafts and pushing for what they love to do.… You see a lot of young people trying to create awareness – from music to fashion to technology – moving toward freedom. ”
“ With every project and everything I try to do, there’s a sense of educating the viewer. Not necessarily educating for the Black viewer or for the white viewer, but just for people in general. ”
“ To convey Black beauty is an act of justice. ”
“ I can see myself within my work. I want to give that platform to young women of colour and show that beauty is not just one universal standard. ”
“ I never try and make a perfect picture. I just try to photograph what I see around me. ”
“ Creating a platform and creating context around our work gives it more value. Firstly, it’s an archival practice, but it’s also a way to bring marginalized and disparate voices together as a network – a strength in numbers. ”
“ I am inspired by my origins and by new creative exchanges, infusing reality with my own sensitivities and experiences. ”
“ If I hadn’t been posting my work on multiple platforms for years, I would never have had these opportunities. Every moment that I didn’t give in, pack up, and move back home has been critical to my success. ”
“ I am trying to create a new vernacular – Black art as universal. ”
“ The beauty of photography is it starts a dialogue about who we are, where we come from, and where we are going. ”
The New Black Vanguard: Photography Between Art and Fashion
The New Black Vanguard: Photography Between Art and Fashion represents a global movement of image makers working internationally across the African diaspora, using their cameras to create contemporary portrayals of Black life that re-frame established representational paradigms. This community of photographers produces images that manifest the significance of the Black figure — and even more radically, the Black creator — as a new ideal in contemporary culture. Their photographs of Black models — whether professionals or cast from the photographers’ families, the street, or Instagram — and celebrities draw on such genres as portraiture and documentary, and conceptual and still-life photography, bringing in a whole new set of references and Black aesthetics as a way to introduce innovative possibilities for the fashion image.
The New Black Vanguard: Photography Between Art and Fashion — initiated and organised by Aperture Foundation, New York — is curated by Antwaun Sargent with curatorial support from Tasweer’s Charlotte Cotton and Sarah Foryame Lawler.