if you are no stranger to my line of work, by now you have learned of my incessant celebration of the black woman. you've grown adapted to seeing:
and the women who look like you.
at the forefront of a gorgeous aesthetic. an aesthetic that grows even more beautiful + compelling with time.
with that in mind, it's quite easy to assume that my love for us has always been present.
but as the gif implies: nah, fam. lol.
up until the last 5 years of my life, i struggled with seeing black women, including myself, as beings who are worthy of love, celebration and admiration, especially those who were of a darker hue. i remember growing up in the south, wanting so badly to escape my own body out of fear that my complexion wouldn't grant me certain "privileges." the privilege of being "pretty." the privilege of being accepted by white people. the privilege of gettin' chose by dudes or the privilege of even being mistaken as someone who was mixed with something other than black on black.
as you can see, i had some serious issues.
simply put: i hated everything that affirmed my black identity.
i was really out here completely unaware of the inimitable beauty + aura that i inherited from my creator + black ancestors. i was really out here feeling like my worth + my beauty was contingent upon whether white people and certain types of black people accepted me or not. i viewed myself through a gaze rooted in anti-blackness, which resulted in many years of self-hatred + low self-esteem.
it wasn't until the start of my creative journey, that God orchestrated a shift in my eye (i) + my mind.
i am a firm believer that blessings reveal themselves through people + relationships. through the intimate nature of photography, God has used the beings that reflect me to show me that i am worthy of celebrating. there is something extremely transformative + therapeutic about visually narrating a black woman in her element. so-much-so that photography has become a restorative, healing practice for me and also the black women that i shoot. my approach to visual documentation is such an intimate exchange rooted in human connection, acceptance and vulnerability. it is a safe space for black women to feel affirmed in their skin. in who they are. and in who we are as a collective. every woman who has become my muse has also imparted to me the courage to love myself + the courage to celebrate my beauty + my blackness.
for so long, i felt trapped in a body that i perceived as undeserving not realizing that being a black woman, even in the face of oppression + stereotypes, is one of the greatest gifts God has given me.
for so long, i robbed myself of the joy that my black existence has to offer + i suffered so much as a young black girl because i didn't love myself, maybe because i didn't see women like me being celebrated, who knows?
but i know this much: that is no longer my narrative. i am surrounded by brilliant, black women who are unapologetic about who they are + how they navigate through this world. God has intentionally placed these women in my life to let me know that i am perfect just the way i am. i am free from that white gaze that refused to let me see myself as i am: a beautiful creation.
for those of you who are struggling to love yourself: my desire is for you to see yourself the way God sees you.
the way i see you: powerful, beautiful, resilient, brilliant and special.
this is why i create for you. for us.
because i want to prevent another woman or little girl from feeling the way i once felt when i looked in the mirror.
this is why i created my visual journal black women + good grain.
when you read this book, i want you to hear my voice gassing you up to no end lol.
it is important that we celebrate each other. affirm each other.
and create work that reflects our beauty + magic.
because representation matters.
and you taught me that.
you've taught me well.
p.s: shout out to packlane for sponsoring the release of my book by partnering with me for the packaging design. it's stunning. and it makes the black women + good grain experience even more special.
be sure to purchase your copy of my new project :)
and feel free to share your story.
xo — deun ivory