Spotlight: Photographer Damion Reid and the “Beauty of the Black Woman” Project.
How do you describe what a black woman is? How do you even begin to define her?
You don’t. You leave that up to her.
As black women, as black people, we are well aware of our complexities - whether inherited or otherwise. What’s more, despite our differences being used to divide and separate us, whether through experience or heritage, history has played out in such a way that we are and will always be connected to each other in ways words cannot even begin to describe. As romantic as this may sound, and though there is so much beauty in who we are, there’s a lot of pain that we are still forced to triumph through. Despite all this, as we combat that which has manifested in our lives through both structural and internal racism, it’s so important that we look for ways to find and recreate ourselves on our terms.
Living in a world where black women have to constantly defend their existence and personally find ways to continuously reaffirm their beauty and self-worth, it’s hard not to love what Damion Reid does.
As a Communications Major, Reid was, to say the least, troubled by the negative images and stories he’d often come across of Black women and Black people in the Diaspora. In the Spring of 2002, armed with his camera and desire to show the multi-faceted reality of Black women, he began approaching women he’d see in public in an attempt to capture the “Beauty of the Black Woman.”
Ridding himself of mainstream notions of what beauty is or is supposed to look like, Reid opted to go for something deeper when approaching women, "I share a spiritual bond with Black Women. They are the only people that can understand what me a Black Male goes through. That is beauty to me. I go with my feelings. If it feels right to approach someone, I will do it."
So far, the responses Reid has received have been incredibly positive and wonderfully surprising, “Sometimes the Women are shocked that I want to photograph them. They were not used to be called beautiful, much less photographed.”
For Reid, this is a “never-ending project.” He does plan on taking things further and is currently working on a project that concerns Black men in the Diaspora.
All photos courtesy of Damion Reid.
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