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Centering on Moments of Familiar Intimacy, Baldwin Lee’s Photos Capture Black Life Throughout the ’80s American South
In 1983, Baldwin Lee took a road trip through the American South that blossomed into a seven-year project capturing images from Black Southern Americans’ everyday lives. The photographer’s angles and perspectives of landscapes, materials, and gathering spaces are deeply considered. An image feels lived-in, as if it captures the perspective of someone who has experienced the setting over and over again from several angles and with sentimentality. The works embody a candid familiarity.
Some of Lee’s portraits, on the other hand, are hauntingly intimate. For example, in “Nashville, Tennessee” (1983), four Black children stand hand-in-hand in front of an exact replica of the Greek Parthenon in the dead of night. The grandness of the columns in the darkness blows a chill, and the gaze of the innocent, wide-eyed children holding onto each other sends goosebumps along with it. Other characteristics of Lee’s images include the rich textures of magnetic gazes and body language—like the fold of an arm while relaxed or the posture of each person in relation to their environment—as seen in “Vicksburg, Mississippi” (1983), in which an older boy’s stern face and muscular build carries a smaller and more confident version of himself on his hip. The pair’s kinship is clear, but there are enough subtleties in the image to leave a sense of wonder about the worldviews and relationships between each person.
Thirty of Lee’s photographs now on view at the Howard Greenburg Gallery are snippets of an archive of 10,000 black-and-white negatives, a greater number of which are now available in a self-titled monograph published by Hunters Point Press. See his work at the New York space through November 12.
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Our understandings of home are fundamentally personal, determined by an evolving mélange of factors like location, culture, and the people in our lives. Born in Estonia to a Siberian family and later educated in France, artist Anastasia Parmson has long considered this idea and what it means to feel at ease within a space. “I feel like my concept of home is always evolving alongside my practice and my personal experiences,” she tells Colossal. “I do still see drawing as a form of home that I create for myself—a little space where I feel like I truly belong.”
Now living and working in Sydney, Parmson continues to question what creates that sense of comfort and connection by envisioning living areas and bedrooms as a sort of blank canvas. She paints walls, furniture sourced from resale shops or trash bins, and domestic objects like coffee mugs and potted monsteras in white and then draws details in black. Custom vinyl flooring with hand-rendered wood grain and wall panels line the perimeters, and the life-sized works often feature quaint, cozy details like patterned rugs and billowing drapes, in addition to pop culture references through books and framed artworks.
Falling at the intersection of two and three dimensions, the immersive installations are minimal in execution—based on the humble line drawn in a monochromatic palette—in an effort to define the contours of the concept while leaving the specifics open for interpretation and evolution. She explains:
What if home is not defined by an address, a space, or a geographical location? What if, instead, it is defined by the people in our lives? Maybe home is not a place, but a person. That feeling of being truly seen and understood by someone. That feeling of timelessness and ease when you reconnect with an old friend after many long years and realise that you can pick up the conversation as if no time has gone by at all. Maybe home is inter-personal connections and a sense of togetherness.
Parmson’s works are on view in several group exhibitions this fall, including through October 30 at Bendigo Art Gallery, through December 11 at Grafton Regional Gallery, and from October 12 to November 20 at Woollahra Gallery. She will also host a studio sale of smaller pieces in the coming months, so keep an eye on her Instagram for updates.
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The striking portraits of South African photographer and activist Zanele Muholi (previously) are easily recognizable. Shot in stark black-and-white, the images utilize heavy contrast and center on single subjects dressed in elaborate garments. These wearables are sculptural in construction and made from commonplace objects: clothespins are strung together as a necklace, dried grasses splay outward like the brim of a hat, and rolls of toilet paper cascade over a figure’s shoulders.
Muholi often works in self-portraiture and is known for photographing Black queer subjects as a way to explore the radical nature of identity and as a means of celebration and respect. “The work that I produce is meant to be for every person,” they say in an interview. “It could be a teacher. It could be a mother whose child is queer and wants to have a reference point to show their kids and say that you are not alone. And it could be for LGBTI people themselves to understand their worthiness.” Muholi views all of their works as collaborations with the sitters, who often gaze at the camera with direct, empowered expressions.
Many of the photos shown here are part of the group exhibition Dig Where You Stand, which is on view through October 9 at Savannah Centre for Contemporary Art in Tamale, Ghana. A project of African Artists’ Foundation, the group show engages with questions of decolonization and restitution and will travel to Lagos, Lusanga, and Lisbon in the coming months. Until then, find more from Muholi on Instagram.
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Spontaneity, honesty, and a desire for experimentation are at the heart of an ongoing project by Christoffer Relander, whose dreamy compositions masterfully blend portraiture and nature. 365 Days of Double Exposure is Relander’s practice of documenting life around him, whether that be the mundane scenes inside his home or the landscapes and people he encounters. Like other daily projects in a similar vein, the goal is to create no matter the circumstances, and Relander carries a pocket-sized Ricoh GRIII with him to capture impromptu moments throughout the day.
The Finnish photographer (previously) recently released the first month’s collection on Behance—prints are available through his site—many of which layer silhouettes of children with foliage. Taken in black-and-white, the images delicately balance the human and natural elements, allowing facial details to peek through a garden of daisies or superimposing a deserted roadway into a profile so that it appears to lead into the figure.
Some of Relander’s compositions are included in a group exhibition through August 28 at the Museum of New Art in Pärnu, Estonia, and if you’re in New York City, you can see more of his work at Muriel Guepin.
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From a black-and-white portrait of a reclined James Baldwin to a candid shot of a father and daughter on a Harlem park bench, a new archive from Getty grants open access to thousands of images devoted to Black history and culture. The massive collection—which was developed with historians and educators Dr. Deborah Willis, Jina DuVernay, Dr. Tukufu Zuberi, Dr. Mark Sealy MBE, and Renée Mussai—comprises 30,000 photographs taken in the U.S. and U.K. that are available for free non-commercial, educational use. Applications for access are open now.
Organized by decade from the 1800s to the 2020s, the Black History & Culture Collection offers a broad, varied look at the people, events, and undeniably influential movements that continue to shape life today. The collection is further searchable by type and subject matter, which encompasses everything from art and entertainment to politics and sports. You can find a curated selection of images from the multimedia platform Black Archives, which partnered with Getty to shine light on specific moments from the collection. (via Peta Pixel)
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Since 2017, a multi-faceted initiative has celebrated hundreds of street photographers whose work develops and expands the boundaries of what’s historically been a male-dominated field. The project of Gulnara Samoilova, Women Street Photographers connects the widespread and deeply personal by highlighting the subtle, nuanced ways the world appears when viewed by different people. Broad in subject matter and style, the initiative’s collection ranges from Anna Biret’s intimate, shadow-laden portrait of a young girl in India to Debrani Das’s candid shot of children at play in black and white.
Women Street Photographers also function as a vital community for those working today, and in recent years, the project has grown from an Instagram account to an artist residency and book collecting a small portion of images. It also culminates each year in an annual exhibition, with the fourth edition opening on April 7 at ArtSpace PS109 in Manhattan. The upcoming show features the work of 79 photographers from 20 countries and will be presented alongside a collection by residency runner-up Maude Bardet. Similar to previous iterations, this year’s exhibition is an expansive consideration of the photographers working toward a more diverse genre.
See some of our favorite shots included in the show below, and visit the project’s site for a deeper look at the ongoing initiative. Samoilova is also curating a show by Women Street Photographers member Sandra Cattaneo Adorno, which opens on April 23 at Personal Structures.
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