Study of Kin – Marcia Michael

‘…images showing positive representations of black subjects were not evident in the British national archives.’…

‘…images showing positive representations of black subjects were not evident in the British national archives.’

Shocking I thought. But true, according to artist and photographer Marcia Michael who is currently exhibiting in New Art Exchange’s Central Space (28th September 2012 – 5th January 2013).

Michael’s photographs are intended to ‘record and reveal the authentic’ portraiture of black identity. She uses her own family in the series ‘Study of Kin’. I would usually find this hard to engage with, as artists can sometimes make their work too personal for a viewer to truly understand. However in Michael’s photographs there is no air of standard ‘family photographs’, instead she offers a collection of documentary photography, with an incredibly delicate edge.

The photographs have a great sense of stillness, made by the ‘studio type’ backdrop and their beautiful ordinariness. So much so, learning that historic representations of black identity throughout history has been affected by political circumstance – to the point that photographs were mainly taken to present negative stereotypes of the Black community – gave this work a huge feeling of dignity; which the subjects in the photographs certainly compliment.

Each of the photographs deserves time for reflection, but I personally found the photographs of the subjects turned away from the camera to be particularly poignant. You may be expecting me to say something conceptual about the meaning of the subject turning away, but I daren’t taint these photographs with such empty words. These particular pieces are just simply stunning, and achieve what Michael’s points out – a true documentation of skin without the attachment of stereotypes.

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