University of Southern California, Sponsored by Black Student Assembly
Mission: To highlight intersecting identities of Black people as a means of transcending the monolithic perception of blackness
4/12: Read About Us in AFROPUNK!
In the Fall, peers Quincy Nkwonta and Saphia Jackson invited me onboard to create portraits of members of our community (the Black student community at the University of Southern California). You may recognize some of these folks as frequent subjects, muses, etc. But I had never had the opportunity to photograph the majority of the 16+ members of the project in such an intimate way. It required a lot of focus, vulnerability and versatility as many of them had never been asked to pose like this before, and I had to build and light for a wide range of skin tones during and after the production.
I borrowed a white backdrop + stand and set it up in an old theatre/P.E. classroom on campus (likely built in the 60’s or earlier). I used natural lighting only, taking advantage of what streamed in from the window. The results are electrifying. This is the kind of work I had aspired to create.
As the artist, I only captured. Sure: I motivated, cheered, advised, consoled, warned, etc. as any skilled portraitist would. But the power of I AM, Period. is the meaning given to each photo by the subjects. Everyone chose a word to describe their individuality, inside the umbrella of blackness. I am Iris. They are:
I was so moved by their words and background stories:
And, because the limitations of B/W photography can be draining, I got to publish a few color shots, too:
To celebrate the honesty and much-needed truth of this moment, we’re working on getting our story out into the world, similarly to how Joy Okon and I were able to share our project. If you know anyone who could be a good press ally for IAM, Period, please hit my line!
What matters even more is that you tell me (in person, online or otherwise) how the work makes you feel. Did you connect with it? Does it inspire you? Does it make you sad? As a creative, I’ve started to realize that this personal feedback is paramount, and means much more to me than a slew of likes or views. I want to change the status quo with more work like this. I promise that you’ll see some before May.
Thank you, Iris xx