"I’m falling… why can’t I fly?"
There are surprising moments of tenderness and awareness/criticism of masculinity and patriarchy in this show.
"What’s your emotional availability this week?"
"Teaching the Camera to See My Skin: Navigating photography’s inherited bias against dark skin," by Syreeta McFadden
Most photographers — my parents, the Olan Mills studio — didn’t have that control. Unless you were doing your own processing, you took your roll of film to a lab where the technician worked off a reference card with a perfectly balanced portrait of a pale-skinned woman.
They’re called Shirley cards, named after the first woman to pose for them. She is wearing a white dress with long black gloves. A pearl bracelet adorns one of her wrists. She has auburn hair that drapes her exposed shoulders. Her eyes are blue. The background is grayish, and she is surrounded by three pillows, each in one of the primary colors we’re taught in school. She wears a white dress because it reads high contrast against the gray background with her black gloves. “Color girl” is the technicians’ term for her. The image is used as a metric for skin-color balance, which technicians use to render an image as close as possible to what the human eye recognizes as normal. But there’s the rub: With a white body as a light meter, all other skin tones become deviations from the norm.
It turns out, film stock’s failures to capture dark skin aren’t a technical issue, they’re a choice. Lorna Roth, a scholar in media and communication studies,wrote that film emulsions — the coating on the film base that reacts with chemicals and light to produce an image — “could have been designed initially with more sensitivity to the continuum of yellow, brown and reddish skin tones but the design process would have to be motivated by a recognition of the need for extended range.” Back then there was little motivation to acknowledge, let alone cater to a market beyond white consumers.
I only wonder if unbiased technologies were available to us then, could they have enabled an alternative story? If images produced by Western culture represented a wider variety of black and brown identities, images in stock agencies that showed black women in professional settings, or just carefree girls, jumping rope, swimming, camping, with all shades of light highlighting how light changes on our skin, that together we’d reach some accord, some comfortable vernacular about the diversity of beauty and humanness. I wonder if the technologies available to us in those days would have taught me early how to love the richness of my brown skin.
In high school, a white classmate drew a picture of my smile and somehow made me look like a monkey. He’d seen drawings of black people somewhere that exaggerated my jawline, enlarged my lips. I started taking pictures to self protect. I just couldn’t bear seeing anymore shitty pictures of me. I didn’t want know what I wanted these images to say, but I knew I could make something beautiful.
BROKEHEART: JUST LIKE THAT by Patrick Rosal
When the bass drops on Bill Withers’ Better Off Dead, it’s like 7 a.m. and I confess I’m looking over my shoulder once or twice just to make sure no one in Brooklyn is peeking into my third-floor window to see me in pajamas I haven’t washed for three weeks before I slide from sink to stove in one long groove left foot first then back to the window side with my chin up and both fists clenched like two small sacks of stolen nickels and I can almost hear the silver hit the floor by the dozens when I let loose and sway a little back and just like that I’m a lizard grown two new good legs on a breeze -bent limb. I’m a grown-ass man with a three-day wish and two days to live. And just like that everyone knows my heart’s broke and no one is home. Just like that, I’m water. Just like that, I’m the boat. Just like that, I’m both things in the whole world rocking. Sometimes sadness is just what comes between the dancing. And bam!, my mother’s dead and, bam!, my brother’s children are laughing. Just like—ok, it’s true I can’t pop up from my knees so quick these days and no one ever said I could sing but tell me my body ain’t good enough for this. I’ll count the aches another time, one in each ankle, the sharp spike in my back, this mud-muscle throbbing in my going bones, I’m missing the six biggest screws to hold this blessed mess together. I’m wind- rattled. The wood’s splitting. The hinges are falling off. When the first bridge ends, just like that, I’m a flung open door.
Young Justice is getting real, y’all.
I did not expect this.
Fashion Friday: Bib-and-brace overalls—trousers with an attached bib that covers the stomach and chest—have been a standard of American work wear since the early twentieth century. As seen here, both Patrick Kelly and Gerlan Jeans have reinterpreted this classic American style in their collections. Which is your favorite?
“Woman’s Dress Woman’s Ensemble: Jumpsuit and Apron,” Fall/Winter 1987, designed by Patrick Kelly (Promised gift of Bjorn Guil Amelan and Bill T. Jones)
“Kriss Kross” Halter-All Dress in “Lip Leopard” Print, Spring/Summer 2011 Jeans & Satin Collection, designed by Gerlan Jeans