Thursday, May 14, 2015

"The Blacker the Berry"


by: Craig Carpenter
It sometimes seems a requirement, especially in a city as large and diverse as New York, to claim belonging to one of society's sub-groupings, or tribes, as some might call them. As a means of identity, it's important because these groupings help us, individually and collectively, to determine a sense of culture, beliefs or preferences. Often through visual cues, or by inference, these serve to create a kind of order out of Babel's confusion. Several months ago, I made the acquaintance of one of my tribe -- Tau Battice, a photographer whom I'd met through Instagram and whose work I'd come to respect and admire, as we navigated the throngs leaving a performance at SummerStage at Central Park. Another friend was with me, another tribesman, and he recognized Tau from photos on Instagram. There were no indicators that we belonged to the tribe of photographers, but we immediately bonded, the three of us, in a discussion of art, culture and politics -- naturally, the things that bring New Yorkers together. We spoke that afternoon into evening, literally for three hours. As he and my other friend, Ken are West Indian, there were plenty of well illustrated stories shared, and the impromptu meeting has turned into a very cool friendship. 






New York City is a fertile ground for a study in Afro-Latina culture. How did you go about choosing your subjects. Did it also include international travel?

The Afro Latina project has grown organically through word of mouth. My intentions expressed to a few people in private, caught other ears, and resulted in most of my connections. And sometimes very literally. One Dominicana, with whom I partnered, eavesdropped on a street conversation I was having with another lady, and she approached afterward wanting to tell her story. My partners, or subjects if you prefer, in this project are chosen either because they have come to terms or are coming to terms with their physical African-ness in a home culture that oftentimes downplays. These women are either free or trying to get free of the limiting and, even dehumanizing, mythologies inherent of racial and ethnic classifications.
Initially, the idea was to travel all of Latin America and the Caribbean making the portraits. But that quickly grew impractical. Everyone from everywhere lives in New York City, so the portraits are made in New York City.

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