AMERICAN WOMAN is a portrait and documentary series documenting Black women in America.
AMERICAN WOMAN is a portrait and documentary series documenting Black women in America—American for multiple generations, first generation American, or American via naturalization or dual citizenship. The series pushes back against the stereotypical archetype most people picture, and the characteristics most associate with the term “American woman” by adding to the fabric of imagery considered American in nature, and by casting Black women as the narrators of their own uniquely American stories. I’ve photographed and filmed interviews with over 60 Black women in Pittsburgh, PA, New York, NY, Chicago, IL, Washington, DC, Los Angeles, CA, New Orleans, LA, and Atlanta, GA over the past two years. I consider every participant a co-curator—each woman chose the location for their photoshoot and interview, their clothing (or lack thereof), and their makeup (or lack thereof); shared details of their lineage and ancestry; and their thoughts on the concept of patriotism, their relationship with America at present, and what they love about Black womanhood.
Extending this kind of agency to my participants was important for a number of reasons. I was born a Black girl in the United States of America, where I was taught from a very young age by mainstream media and society that beauty and worth primarily looks like a white, blonde, blue-eyed woman. Where “all American girls” looked nothing like me, the women in my family, nor my brown-skinned friends. Where many of us felt pressured, thus, to meet an impossible standard. Despite our ancestry, resilience, and sacrifice, damn near all of us have been told we don’t belong, we don’t fit in, we don’t look “American enough”, or to “go back where [we] came from.” Our complex relationship with this country and the labor we’re tasked with as it’s most resilient, brilliant population lends our narratives immeasurable perspective and value. This has never been more imperative than today, when this country is boiling over in combativeness toward marginalized people.
AMERICAN WOMAN will ultimately be realized as a full-length documentary, a traveling art exhibition consisting of large-format portraits and video shorts from the interviews, and a coffee table book.