All Here and Now
James Van Der Zee’s photographs of the Black middle class before the Harlem Renaissance revolutionized my thoughts of Black representation. Van Der Zee used his studio to create an aristocratic world where Harlem’s working class could memorialize itself as the very gentry that had discriminated against it. It is this latent façade of the Black middle class that piqued my interest and led me to photograph the demographic in today’s New York. In my series, All Here and Now, I carry on in the tradition of formal black and white portraiture, but instead of photographing in-studio I have entered peoples’ New York homes and apartments. I intentionally pass over the current dominant discourse in minority art – making visible the invisible – and instead explore preconceived notions of what it means to be Black and middle class. In 2010, what frayed images do Black middle class New Yorkers still project? What new strength? The series is ongoing, evolving to subvert classical sociological and anthropological constructions of race as determined by class and vice versa.