Renata Cherlise

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Interview: Renata Cherlise On Her ‘Black Archives’ Project, the Credibility of Candid Photos, and the Look of Black Joy

April 28, 2023

Paulette Beete

A man holds a fishing pole near a lake

Fishing, 1980. All images reprinted with permission from ‘Black Archives: A Photographic Celebration of Black Life’ by Renata Cherlise, © 2023, published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House

Renata Cherlise’s recently released book, Black Archives: A Photographic Celebration of Black Life, makes clear that Black families have potent stories to tell. Cherlise says in a new Colossal Interview:

Spending time with these scenes of everyday life made me feel connected to my ancestors and inspired me to think about photography as a form of individual and collective history. I became interested in images of the Black experience that I had never seen in mainstream media or textbooks—pictures that capture the intimacy, beauty, and nuance of our everyday lives.

There are first dates, barbeques, trips to Paris, holidays. There is togetherness, laughter, love. These photos testify—through changing fashion, hairstyles, automobile models, photo types, and other markers of time—that Black families have always been part of history, and our stories, our celebrations, have always been an integral part of the historical record.

I spoke with Cherlise via e-mail about the origins of her love for family photos, her book project, and why she considers snapshots “the most authentic storytelling medium in the written and visual language.”

Read the interview. 


Two young boys are in a living room, one adjusts the television antenna while the other sits on a toy truck looking bored

David and Stephen Hunter