“As We See It” Artists Redefining Black Identity is a new book by arts and culture writer Aida Amoako, published by Laurence King Publishing. That delves into the rich and diverse experiences of Black artists, exploring what Blackness brings to the making and viewing of art.
Amoako brings together a new generation of artists challenging the persistent stereotypes and the status quo of the art world through photography, sculpture, and painting. The book examines how these artists explore the frequently changing notions of representation while navigating the shifting global socio-political and cultural landscape that is being prompted to accept them. These artists provide a new lens to view the Black identity and what it means to be Black as an artist, shifting the conversation towards a more authentic narrative.
Historically the Black identity has been plagued by destructive stereotypes, a concept of ignorance which has had a detrimental effect on Black people across all spheres of life, from the classroom to the boardroom and everything in between. However, it’s imperative to acknowledge how these toxic stereotypes have been perpetuated and how they affect the representation of the Black identity, particularly within the realm of visual arts.
In a time where photos hold so much influence, photography has the strength to ignite change and challenge prejudice, which we have seen in the past. It played a crucial role in bringing social and political change during the Civil Rights movement by raising awareness of the struggles and injustices faced by Black people through photographs of protests and demonstrations, which contributed to legal and social changes.
The untamed imagery of Gordon Parks in the 50s and Carrie Mae Weems in the 80s, both in art and life, were vessels that also contested destructive stereotypes by depicting black people’s lives and experiences in a nuanced and complex manner.
Yet to understand how Black people have been represented in the past is to understand how they are represented now and how they can be represented in the future, and “As We See It” does precisely this. Amoako utilises photography to examine the concept of the Black gaze, de-centring the traditional white-centric perspective with a visually striking narratives depicting Black joy, love and queer and non-binary identities in the art world, supplying food for thought spanning 192 pages.
The book’s cover is breathtaking, setting the tone with the remarkable imagery by Paris-based photographer and stylist Kenny Germé “The Godfather”, 2000. His series explores different aspects of Black masculinity through styling and poses; the dignified image represents youth, innocence, future self and legacy and immediately forges the book’s intention of impact and perspective.
As you delve deeper into the book, you are greeted with a phenomenal range of photography emphasised by Amoako’s dedicated text that provides a detailed look into the artists’ views on representation, gender, queer identity and the intersections of being both Black and an artist.
The book’s captivating imagery and impeccable writing deliver a fresh and genuine viewpoint on Black identity in the 21st century. “As We See It” is a stunning reminder of the value of inclusivity and diversity in today’s society. This book is a must-read for those who identify with the Black community and want to gain a deeper understanding of diverse perspectives as well as those from the Black community.