Many of today’s young photographers are experts at moving between worlds. If you’re Renell Medrano, for example, you might be taking intimate portraits in your ancestral homeland of the Dominican Republic for a personal project one moment, then capturing the Kardashians for Instagram the next, then pivoting to shooting a spread for Vogue magazine.
“That range is, to me, really amazing,” said writer and curator Antwaun Sargent, who highlights Medrano’s work along with a number of other young, Black, multidisciplinary image makers as part of his new show, “Just Pictures,” which opened at projects+gallery in St. Louis on September 10.
The exhibit was born out of conversations sparked by Sargent’s 2019 photo book and exhibition, The New Black Vanguard. His goal was to focus on Black image makers who blur the line between fashion and art, or the conceptual and the commercial, and in doing so, create their own space — one without boundaries, where identity is amorphous as well.
“From one context to the next, an image changes its meaning,” Sargent said, whether it’s on social media, or in a magazine, or on the wall of a gallery. “One thing that’s been interesting for me is bringing these images into an institutional space, and seeing how their meaning changes.”
Photographer Mous Lamrabat, for example, might cover his figures with silk sheet, so the viewer is forced to imagine who or what they are. Justin Solomon’s subjects are photographed with a heavy shadow, so much that you can hardly make out their visages. And Arielle Bobb-Willis uses brightly colored clothing to create a sense of abstraction in her portraits, similar to the way Jacob Lawrence did with figures in his paintings.
Sargent is keen on connecting the work of this generation of photographers with the artists who proceeded them, but he also emphasizes their ability to create a new world of their own. “For this generation of emerging imagemakers, the photographer’s eye is illimitable,” he writes in the show’s release. “A picture is just a picture.”
Below, a selection of images from “Just Pictures,” which runs through November 21.