Brooklyn-based photographer Stacey Tyrell’s series Backra Bluid is a dramatic investigation of the artist’s own mixed heritage and the colonialized experiences of non-whites. As an African-Canadian, whose family most recently hails from the Caribbean, she is brutally aware of the English/Scottish/Irish blood in her veins—the ubiquitous reality lived by people who are labeled as “black” in the West.
Tyrell poses herself as women and girls of various ages, dressed in the outfits of her white ancestors. She displays ambiguous racial features achieved through an elegant combination of lighting, costuming, make-up and digital retouching. The images are inspired by formal Western painting, a nod to the imperialism to which the project refers.
Drawing from the self-portraiture tradition of Cindy Sherman and Niki S. Lee, she combs public records for historical data to add dimension to her characters, such as names carefully curated from Scottish baby registries and the US Social Security Administration. The series is tinged with discomfort, anger and shame, sentiments that are repeatedly mirrored in the cold stares and tense facial expressions of her characters.