Self-Portraits From 27 Black Photographers Reflecting on America

By Deborah Willis
Ozier Muhammad Harlem, N.Y.
As I write this essay, two events are changing our country — the Covid-19 pandemic, in which more than 100,000 Americans have died (including a disproportionately large number of people of color), and the brutal killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and Tony McDade, which gained nationwide attention at a time when images serve as evidence. Against this backdrop of black death, is it even possible to tell a story about identity through photographic self-portraits? The self-portraits in this collection, serving as a visual response to these unthinkable experiences, show that it is. As I look at these images, I can envision how the photographers shifted their focus to construct new works or culled their own archives to revisit ideas — seeking answers to their own questions about one’s sense of self and responsibility during this unspeakable time. [More]

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