Someone a while back brought to my attention the work of Brian Shumway. I checked it out and now so do you!
I love, love his Black Girl Series. There is a strong social message behind the portraits... more than meets the eye. I find them rather ''in your face'', sincere and very of the moment. There is melancholy, hunger, desire, lust, ambition, humor and great urge of dreams to be fulfilled. Most of this dreams will never materialized due to the pretty evident racial discrimination of the Modeling/Fashion industry towards people of color. Looking at the series in detail it may make you feel sad because, there is a true reality behind all the pretty '' Black Girls''
Here is his artist statement:
All Photos by Brian Shumway- From the Black Girl Series
Titled after a Lenny Kravitz song extolling the unique beauty of black women, Black Girl is a portrait series about aspiring models. Having a documentary background, I began photographing models to challenge myself professionally. However, my notions about modeling and the kinds of women who pursue it were challenged as I gradually recognized a central paradox: so many black women choosing to pursue modeling despite the industry’s persistent preference for white models. On one modeling website alone, there are over 3000 aspiring black models within the New York City area. Only white women surpass that. After organizing shoots, I realized this was an opportunity to explore a large, yet isolated corner of the modeling world.
Part anthropology and part make-believe, Black Girl is subtle and multifaceted. Because this project was collaborative (the models and I would discuss wardrobe, make-up, pose, concept, location, etc), the results demonstrate one way in which they choose to be seen. The act of modeling allows them to enter an alternate reality and assume an alter ego. Conversely, it opens a space to unveil a dormant side of themselves and grapple with issues about the body, identity, beauty, sexuality, youth, and fantasy. How they express themselves not only says something about who they are individually, but reveals clues about the broader socioeconomic class and cultural milieu to which they belong.
Black Girl is a small sampling of black women with a passion for modeling. It attempts to capture how they see themselves in the role of model and is not meant to represent all aspiring black models nor black women generally. Far from being cookie-cutter fashion or runway models, they deviate from the industry’s stringent definition of beauty. At core, Black Girl is a story of bitter irony, of beautiful women who dream of a profession where they are systematically devalued. Yet, they prove that an undeniable drive to attain a dream cannot be diminished.
You can see more of the series and Brian's work here: