“The Awakening” is a celebration of the beauty of Black childhood and culture, and the delicate intricacies of protecting and raising a Black child in today’s world. Loosely inspired by the work of Marianne Stokes whose portraits often showed the fine details of garments that were floor-length and embroidered. I worked with wardrobe artist Isabelle Philogene to pull clothing with similar patterns, textures, and adornments while mixing in whispers of influences from east & west Africa. I worked with Charese Adkins on initial hairstyles (which I then digitally enhanced) mixing African and African American traditional hairstyles and make up artist Judy Rowe for makeup.
For some time, I felt overtaken by feelings of anger and frustration continually coming across so much negativity fixated around black hair and hairstyles (in addition to the long list of atrocities that have happened and continue to happen globally). Mixed feelings of frustration, anger, and love urged me to refocus that energy into creating something to speak for me in response to it all. The Awakening was the 4th series I created in those moments.
My camera remains my primary tool of communication, while my constant exploration of diverse ways of expression moves me to add several different layers using a variety of mediums. After a portrait session is complete, I typically digitally manipulate my subjects and unite them with other photographic components to achieve a work that is a new photographic expression (often lending to them the eyes of someone their elder). Thereafter, I may montage repurposed antique patterns and textures, vintage botanical and wildlife illustrations or hand drawn digital illustration. If I feel I am not yet complete, after each portrait is refined and printed, I may combine paint and gilding adding ornamental elements inspired by 19th century artworks. Each layer is meaningful and intentionally placed.