If you look at fashion and art, you probably don’t see much that looks like you. There is a little bit of color missing in the fashion and art world, but there are emerging artists out there willing to not only take the risk, but to accept it as routine to include men of color as subject matter.
I have had the opportunity to be exposed to and even meet a couple of those artists since moving to New York City.
Jahn Hall is a Brooklyn-based stylist/photographer from Southern Germany by way of Northern California. I’ve had the opportunity to meet him at a pop-up shop in Williamsburg for BKLYN Dry Goods – a curated vintage menswear shopping concept – which Jahn is a co-founder of. He started with styling years before he picked up the camera. Since then, his work has evolved to not only include, but to focus on and enhance the presence of men of color. His photos:
Kehinde Wiley is a prominent painter of a Nigerian and African-American background, known globally for this use of African-American in heroic-type poses usually found in traditional portrait paintings. His work features men from the Harlem neighborhood which he grew up, clad in street wear which address their status in contemporary culture. However, the paintings draw from historical references including iconic poses and motifs from architecture. I had both the opportunity to meet him in New York and to see his exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum, one of the places his work can be seen. Some of his work:
Tarrice Love, a Memphis, TN native is a photographer out of Brooklyn who was recommended to me for this piece. I haven’t had the chance of meeting him yet, but have been exposed to his work. Tarrice has the talent of making his subjects sensual verses sexual. Often times, he works with newcomers to the fashion industry. Among them include Ibrahim Baaith, Andre Douglass, Wendell Lissimore, and Marcus Lloyd – all working models. Some of his work:
These artists are part of the ever growing populous of artists that embrace the idea that men of color belong in the discussion of human representation and beauty. Still men of color are often vilified, sexualized and ultimately underrepresented. Jahn has said of his style of shooting that he “likes to shoot [the models] rich”. Wiley supports a similar approach in the way he portrays his subjects, most often as if they were part of the Napoleon glorification in traditional paintings. Too often, men of color are made to look as though they are poor or destitute. As the fashion and art industries progress in regards to race, so do the representations of the subjects.
Even more, the world of men’s fashion tends to lag behind women’s fashion, so the issue of Vogue Italia dubbed the “all black issue” that featured all black models in its editorial a few years back hints at the possibility of a men’s publication doing that in the future. Furthermore, the stereotypes that are usually associated to race are being discarded for more neutral and realistic ideas of humanity. Support these artists and seek opportunities to learn about more of them.