Saturday, August 23, 2008

Black portrait project airs on HBO

American portrait photographer Timothy Greenfield-Sanders (b.1952) is collaborating on a portrait photography/oral history project called Blacklist, Vol 1, with Black film critic Elvis Mitchell interviewing the subjects. The subjects are a wide-ranging variety of Black celebrities (including Toni Morrison, Serena Williams, Sean Coombs, Richard Parsons, Chris Rock, etc.). It airs on HBO on Monday, August 25th.

Interesting that White photographers find themselves drawn to photographing Black portraits. Reminds me of Brian Lanker's project "I Dream a World: portraits of Black Women who Changed America," which I both envied and admired. I envied both the sheer beauty of Lanker's portraits and his audacity for having conceived the project in the first place. Green-field Sanders has produced some awesome results as well.

Timothy Greenfield-Sanders seems to favor the unflinching, staring-straight-into-the-camera style of Richard Avedon in his non-commercial non-fashion work in his later years. He also favors Avedon's penchant for very large-format view cameras (11x14). Makes a militantly anachronistic statement in this digital photography age.


Joyce Owens said...

Glad it 's not just me who feels that in the midst of a racist society, we have to own every little thing we can, including our images!

When I wrote about "Black Is, Black Ain't" on my blog, that was part of my concern with the exhibition's message! The show itself, was very well produced! It is a catch-22 that is so difficult to articulate, but it about being left out. When Al Jolson made a living on black face. When Elvis made a career on black music, while at the same time black people could not make the same living...

Danielle said...

Good point. (Sorry I'm so late getting in on this!) On the one hand, I really enjoyed the documentary and I think it was beautifully done. But there does come a rather uncomfortable question of, who gets to portray us? Who gets to control which images of us are seen, how they're filtered, how they're presented.

Honestly, I didn't really ask myself that when I first saw the Blacklist. I think it's a more obvious question to ask when the images are negative, not when they're mostly positive.

Do you think something was lost in that Elvis Mitchell didn't collaborate with say, Marc Baptiste or Dawoud Bey for this project?