Four members of Black Women Photographers, a global community, have come together for Our Black Experience, an exhibition at Galerie Kitsuné in New York City.
In 2021, Poochie Collins worked with Leeza Joneé to create tangled. “These photographs were part of a more significant production entitled Curl Stories, which I creatively produced and directed for a major hair company,” the artist says. “What started as a love story to my hair, reminding my younger self that I am beautiful just as I am, became an invitation to several other Black women to provide their own love letters.”
For this session, Collins chose an intimate setting, photographing Joneé at home. It’s a portrait of her friend, but it’s also an expression of self-love and care. As part of Curl Stories, Poochie Collins also wrote a poem, a love letter that inspired more Black women to write their own. Her poem follows here.
“I documented an intimate, raw, and personal story which was my experience as a Black woman in admiration of my crown,” the artist tells us. “Because I prefer to be a voyeur and not a matter of focus, the multidisciplinary artist Leeza Joneé, my dear sister-friend, agreed to let my vision speak through her. With our ancestors and hearts guiding us, Leeza and I created this series in her beautiful home somewhere in Brooklyn.”
Step into Galerie Kitsuné this month, and you’ll see Collins’s portraits next to a series of portraits by Kaylah Sambo, titled Black Femininity. Continue along that same wall to discover Yolanda Hoskey‘s soft and colorful floral portraits, which together create a singular visual reference for the idea of giving someone their flowers.
Going full circle from there, Zakiyyah Woods presents photographs from The women of my blood were…, a project inspired by her family history. “These photos are a part of an ongoing family discovery project that I began several years ago in order to confirm or dispel the rumors that my maternal grandmother was 100% indigenous,” Woods says.
“These images reflect my journey towards education and ‘meeting’ the women that existed before me through record discovery and making contact with living relatives. Finding them allows me to continue finding myself as a mother, sister, friend, woman.”
The four bodies of work are different, but one common thread becomes this idea of discovery and rediscovery. These photographers exist in conversation with their models, with one another, and with history itself. “Our voices have been silenced for centuries, but now we are taking control of our narrative and how we are viewed,” Polly Irungu, the Founder of Black Women Photographers, explains.
Black women have been sharing stories through the lens for generations, even in the face of intolerable inequality. Consider this: in the year 1920, 101 Black women photographers registered in the US census, according to historians. One generation helped blaze the trail for the next, who, in turn, forged paths of their own and helped pave the way for the many, many more who came after. A century down the road, a photography exhibition by, for, and about Black women feels like an act of resistance and celebration decades in the making.
See Our Black Experience at Galerie Kitsuné through February 26th. @BlackWomenPhotographers will present in-person events every Thursday throughout the exhibition’s run.
To see more work by members of Black Women Photographers, check out our interviews with Heather Agyepong, Akilah Townsend, and Maya Iman.