Selections From The Skin I’m In
Racial strife is as old as our nation. Violence around recent incidents between African American communities and the police have reached such a crescendo that it may mark a second coming of the civil rights movement. As an artist, I wanted my photographic portraits to express my hope for peace and my outrage at the unfair treatment of seemingly innocent individuals. “The Skin I’m In” asks the viewer to consider the dignity of individuals who self-identify as African, African American or from the wider African Diaspora in uniformly posed solo portraits taken in a luminous, romantic light. Each person is emerging from a black background in the tradition of the Italian painter Caravaggio, whose soft directional lighting gently highlighted the dimensionality of facial features and the tonality and texture of the skin. Symbolically, my subjects are stepping out of a darkness filled with fear, misunderstanding and confusion into a rightful sense of identity. The resplendent range of skin tones and textures portrayed helps to challenge the stereotype of these individuals being viewed similarly, while their deliberately impartial expressions, neither aggressive nor submissive, defy easy racial presumptions by viewers. The uniformity of composition underscores our similarities, while each portrait possesses particular features and nuances that demonstrate the individual’s personal dignity. It is my hope that these portraits help people own that each of us merits respect, whatever skin we’re in.