UK-based Gregory is another friend of the Willis/William’s crew. Her work was featured in their photographic publication, The Black Female Body.
Her series Objects of Beauty, seems particularly relevant to this project.
From her website :
Who can deny the power of a pair of hairdresser’s scissors, or the bewitching effect of a set of dark false eyelashes? These images raise questions about women’s pursuit of changing ideals of beauty and the meanings we attach to the objects themselves.
Some appear alongside tape measures, suggesting questions about ideal proportions. Others are chosen for the way they can change a body-shape, or even the way a woman walks. The apparent simplicity of the work belies its complex message.
The next work of Gregory’s that I’m featuring are the Autoportraits, a set of nine black and white self-portraits first exhibited by Autograph ABP in 1990. Autograph ABP is an international organization whose mission is to:
…educate the public in photography by addressing issues of cultural identity and human rights. It achieves this through formal and informal education programmes, exhibitions, publishing, and the creation of an archive of culturally diverse photography that is accessible to the public for research. Established in 1988 with the aim of advocating the inclusion of historically marginalised photographic practices, Autograph ABP also collaborates with peer organisations, nationally and internationally, to develop, exhibit and publish contemporary and historical photography.
The Autoportraits cross references a concept developed by Stuart Hall that deals with black narcissism and self-representation. I haven’t been able to access the original research, but the idea of black narcissism starts my wheels spinning.
Socio-historically speaking, the institution of slavery was antithetical to blacks developing healthy amounts of narcissism (self-love, self-centeredness), which is quite necessary for infants and, up to a point, normal in grown ass people too.
I would wager that Hall’s work encourages the exploration of narcissism in post-colonial African or African descendant populations.
I really enjoy this series. I see her as a hesitant narcissist, beginning the journey to healthy self-centeredness, somewhat afraid of what she might find, but willing to try. She can’t look, she covers her eyes, she avoids, she looks from the side, from underneath, from behind. She captures parts and pieces.
There is a ton of truth in these Autoportraits, both about representation and the process of creating such images.
Love and Enjoy.
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