I began photographing people twenty five years ago, shooting on black and white film. At the time I had a person who was mentoring me. His feedback on my work was overall very positive with the exception of my subject matter. As a teenage girl I photographed what I knew–other teenage girls. He criticised me for this, but how was I supposed to photograph anything else? Looking back now, he was not trying to shame me or discourage me but to instigate me to look beyond my own world of what I knew without telling me how to do it or what to explore. His criticism did leave out one important point, which was that I was only photographing white teenage girls.
It took some time, but I did heed my mentor’s advice and look beyond my white walls to the rest of the world. My documentary work has relied entirely on the willingness of people to trust me with their image, that I capture it with good intention, and I put it to purpose to create a change we wish to see. Many of those people have been from the global black community, some I have known just for the moment the shutter releases, others I have kept in touch with over the years.
Stranger Daughter is not only the title of this show, but of the limited edition photography book I published in 2020 inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement in June 2020. Stranger daughter was the name I was given by Yamah, a midwife in Liberia in West Africa. She told me when a foreigner comes to Liberia, a local person can choose to look after them and will call them their stranger daughter or son.
They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but I believe art and society are mirrors of each other. Oftentimes, it is the society that decides what is beautiful and aesthetically pleasing and that is what art becomes. But if we continue to look through this lens, if we never look outside ourselves and lived experiences, we will never be able to create beauty from other sources other than ourselves. We do not have to create art to please society. As artists, we can decide what is beautiful. And with that intention, I am proud to have chosen these photographs of all black portraits from around the world. I changed my lens, looked beyond my world, this is what I found, and to me it is beautiful.