Courtesy of the Detroit Institute of Arts
Dana Scruggs, "Nyadhour, Elevated, Death Valley, California," 2018.
When U.S. Olympic gymnast Simone Biles graced the cover of Vogue
in August 2020, people were very vocal about disliking it. Not because of Biles, but because the four-time gold medalist was photographed by Annie Leibovitz, a white photographer. Critics slammed the lighting as being unflattering against Biles's skin tone, which appeared dull and muted, with one Reddit
user describing the photo spread as looking like Biles had been "embalmed."
The importance of enlisting Black photographers to capture Black subjects goes deeper than lighting. It's about how creatives of color see the world, not just visually, but emotionally.
Next month, the Detroit Institute of Arts will host a traveling exhibition titled The New Black Vanguard: Photography between Art and Fashion,
and will spotlight emerging contemporary Black photographers and a selection of their color portraits, conceptual images, and fashion editorials, some of which have been previously published or featured in ad campaigns, museums, and magazines.
The exhibition, which opens Dec. 17 and will run through April 17, will feature more than 100 photographs by 15 photographers who are aligned with "The New Black Vanguard," a global movement of emerging artists. The exhibit was curated by New York writer and critic Antwaun Sargent and, per a press release, will "blur traditional lines between art and fashion and where each is displayed" as well as "expand the roles of the Black body and Black lives as subject matter, collectively."
There will be some locally recognizable names among those featured photographers, as displayed throughout a supplemental extension of the exhibition called "New Gazes" which will include work by Detroit-area artists like Mishira Davis, Justin Milhouse, Christian Najjar, Ray Rogers, Corey Turner, and Bre'Ann White.
Additionally, the DIA's Black Is Beautiful: The Photography of Kwame Brathwaite
— the first major exhibition dedicated to Brathwaite who captured the Black cultural experience in the 1960s — remains on display through Jan. 16.
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