Bell Hooks expresses her observation on how the technology of a camera increased her awareness on the importance of visual documentation in spaces of those who experience blackness.
I consider image making in this contemporary time and I reflect on the amount of people who experience blackness and their aggressive desire to not only develop, but increase their digital footprint with videos and photos. With an understanding of erasure and disbelief, images have been used to not only document historical ancestry, but as a tool for those who do not believe in our existence- our human existence.
Hooks mentions a struggle for representation- I too, see the advocacy for “good” representation- countered with “bad” and the trivial discourse that I find myself participating in as well. Ultimately, true-life or the imagination of blackness has always found a way to become saturated by the “white imagination” which actively decides to reel back and maintain the foundation of imposed frameworks: not limited to archetypes and grotesque projections.
Sometimes, I feel as though the digital space many of us occupy, has become so contorted, that the idea of granting radical difference to self and acknowledging the complexity of “black life,” is dismissed for the fantastical, or for the lack of innovation in the “reel”. Critical consideration I believe is needed in order to reflect on moments that bring many of us back to times where images occupied spaces in intimate settings that lent themselves to storytelling.
I grew up with so many photo albums. One night, my sister and I spent 6 to 7 hours organizing by dates and events so that we could go back chronologically. This was before the iPhone could do it for us. I typically print my photos from my phone every two to three months to ensure I do not lose my images to the cloud.
Although I integrate digital and physical spaces, I still am a firm believer in cultivating a tangible practice- texture and time expose images and videos alike, which reflect time periods and moments better than any digital render-
Because of the conditions bestowed yet actively not received by those who experience blackness, the camera became political but is not inherently political. Ideas of being non-human, monsters, aliens, or being violently preyed upon have been countered with photographs and videos- leveraging as data to counteract projections and tales- to prove a complexity of a people with perspectives worthy of not only privacy, but also exposure- personally, I am interested in coming to a point of no longer proving, or begging to be believed- but radically grooving a foundation of BEING.
Hooks is exploring what Arthur Jafa calls, “ontological integrity,” the matter of factness of being and existing- whether it be agreed with or disagreed with, it’s existence is not reliant on outside propositions - it just is what it is. And I believe that is something I consistently embody in my process, practice, and daily life- photos can do this.
In Our Glory: photography and Black Life by Bell Hooks
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