The “50 Shades of Beautiful” photo series

began last year as a collaboration with the Nu Afrikan Artivist Movement (NAAM), the photographer Nicole Bacchus, and the visual artist, Ibrahim Wann, whose illustrative style extends from realism to abstract artwork with the flick of his paint brush. NAAM creator, Kymani Jade, asked Bacchus, a graduate of Studio Art and International Studies, to photograph the project, and the three creatives started building together on a provocative series of portraiture reflecting the diversity of the black experience through face art. Jade, who was born to a Curacaoan father and a Barbadian mother in Harlem, was attracted to the idea of “blackness” — and wanted to challenge stereotypical notions of race and identity. Inspired by Franchesca “Chescaleigh” Ramsey’s powerful statement, “Even in black and white, I’m still Black,” Jade’s vision is to “uplift the multitude from the margins”, she says. To her, “blackness” is about more than color, but belonging.

“50 Shades of Beautiful: What Color Am I Now?” is a continuing photo series that seeks to document fifty black people of African descent, highlighting various representations of identity through the prism of race and color. Modeling their raw, authentic selves; their likeness and their stories, but masked behind painted hues of black, yellow, red, and white, typically associated with the social construct of race and regionalism, each model’s revealing portrait requests viewers abandon their bias in invitation to the unknown.

you are a story
do not become a word.
one word.
because you want to be loved.
love does not ask you to be nothing
for
something. — name

Identifying as a Black person of color, whether you are multiracial, or are a person with albinism, you understand the sense of belonging that is represented in the black community and the curiousness of being “black enough” in the tight spaces we are asked to fit in. And so, this project reaches to expand the conversation beyond skin tone and racial ambiguity to “Being”—being more than a single-definition or a word, but a being with a full experience. Each model is called to share exactly who they are, how they see themselves, and what it is that they would like to share with the world in a single sentence.

 

Models: Ymani Jones, Steven Rice, Saikou Dramé, Steven Banner, Aba Ansah, and I’zaiah Goudy

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