Refinement: GOLDEN IDENTITY

So, by accident, I made this found photography series. I was just over at a friend's house, where she had a couple of issues of Playboy from the 70s and other magazines for us to do some crafty projects with. Those issues were right in front of me at this large dining room table where we sat and I got curious. I never, actually, read or saw a Playboy in my life, so the thought of flipping through a very old one, piqued my interest. What I noticed was the quality of the photos: the softness and subtle color palette in which these ladies were presented, the styling of the women, and the wooden environments where their nude bodies were shot.

I took note. 

I started to notice a difference in how the women of color, on different pages, where presented against their white counterparts. The light of these photos were harsher: more natural, less romantic. The softness that had I seen from the other pages of white models had dissipated from the shots of these black women. The more I looked at these Playboys, the more I noticed the racial and sexual microaggressions within the photos. Some were, well, pretty blatant and some were minuscule. But all in all, they were there and I was seeing them with my own eyes: first, as a black woman and, second, as an individual. 

I grabbed scissors and began to cut the photos out: one of a racist/homophobic cartoon and three photos of black models (that was pretty much all there were in terms of representation of people of color). At that moment, something came over me. My friend's roommate had gold lame paint for us to use and I began to paint a gold circle over the faces of the women and of the black men within the racist cartoon. I painted it thick, like a seal, over these individuals' faces. This action didn't really have a rhyme or reason, but it was a reaction, an expression, that came through loud and clear. 

 The depths of this reaction didn't hit me, until I was on the train home after visiting my friend's house, writing and listening to music for another photography project. I simply turned a blank page and began writing text that just strongly struck my mind: "your history, the mockery of your presence, is just a lasting joke with a devastating punchline..." "your identity is precious, not commonplace, not cheapen..." "...but it is your whole, you, that needs the preservation." 

These words just flowed and I began to match them with the visuals that I created. But I went a little further, did some small research, and realized something: The anonymity of scopophilia can be deeply tied to the anonymity of objectification, racism, and sexism. The scopophilic aspect of these photographs strips away their identities, providing an anonymity that can be use for projection, fetishism, and degradation. When identities are stripped or whittled away, either through race or gender, it makes a way for dehumanization. 

So with this knowledge, I took this form of anonymity and reversed it: by preserving the only sense of identity, their faces, under a layer of thick gold. The symbolism of this, along with the text, is that these are individuals, or representations of certain individuals, are to be valued, just like gold. And when these individualities are curated through an intimate type of voyeurism, it cheapens them when, in actuality, they are priceless.