So What's Black Magic?
Black Magic is a collection of tintype portraits made around historically Black cities throughout America that will contribute to the largest contemporary archive of Black American life through wet plate collodion (or tintype) photography. What once was an exercise in curiosity and discipline blossomed into a prodigious exploration of Blackness, Queerness, Afrofuturism, and the Art of Magic/Spirituality. When one gazes upon a tintype the viewer often doesn’t catch that the image isn’t sitting on a surface but rather appears to be floating in space. These images exist in a liminal space that offers an allegory for race in America. The development of this archive of images that bridges the gap between ancestral imagery and capturing the future of our people is something I’ve pondered on for some time. Over the last 12 months I’ve made over 100 tintype portraits as preparation and proof of concept while holding a full time job directing the youth photography program at Venice Arts. I have also had the pleasure of teaching photography at the J. Paul Getty Museum, the Skirball Cultural Center, Youth Policy Institute, and Camino Nuevo Charter Academy! I am excited to dedicate myself to this project full time to see this through. With my background in education, the sharing of how this work, specifically making tintypes, is done means the world to me. Part of my practice is to show the sitters in my portraits the technique in the darkroom.
What's a Tintype?
A tintype, also known as a melainotype or ferrotype, is a photograph made by creating a direct positive on a thin sheet of metal coated with a dark lacquer or enamel and used as the support for the photographic emulsion created in the 1850s. Historically speaking, tintypes were reserved for wealthy white citizens with access to natural resources in the form of metal and chemicals. In regards to Black tintypes, the images made of enslaved Africans were used within white scientific communities to create arguments proving that Black people were scientifically inferior. These arguments have sustained their legitimacy over centuries, with the images still in pristine condition. This project serves as an act of renewal for all of the images created to diminish the Black experience as a whole. If well preserved, these images can last forever. Over the course of this project, the goal is to create a body of work showing the spectrum of Black expressivity as artifacts.