Deana Lawson’s photography explores how black Americans from a variety of backgrounds and identities construct a culture that includes all permutations of black experiences. Like many of George Hurrell’s glamour portraits, Lawson uses a plain studio backdrop, dramatic lighting, and cropping so that the focus is entirely on her subject.
While Lawson’s photograph echoes the compositional aesthetics of glamour portraits, the beauty of Joanette, the sitter, stands apart from Hollywood’s cookie-cutter glamour. Joanette is adorned with ashy silver jewelry, voluminous hair extensions, feathery eyelashes, and elongated nails. Contemporary glamour, as defined in this portrait, embraces all aesthetics, even those that deviate from the norm. This modern inclusivity allows Joanette to pose for Lawson’s camera with as much confidence as Jean Harlow did under Hurrell’s direction.
From the exhibition: New Ms. Thang (May 4 – May 18, 2019)