Photo Essay

How i took a chance on being a traitor

RED WATERMELON AND A BLACK SKIN

While living in Central Florida (having relocated from Atlanta, Georgia) I had become acquainted with the blistering sun. Often when I imagined what the days of summer would have been like under slavery conditions, I imagine the sun and its unmerciful heat to be just like that Florida sunshine at midday. Knowing I had the climate and having found the perfect model (a big girl with the most beautiful dark skin I had seen in some time. [ I dare not say "ever" because I take special pangs to notice dark skin...I love it. I dated several dark skinned women. Thus it is not a mark of ugliness as some African-Americans find it to be.

In any event I know of the stereotypes associated with African-Americans and certain foods. We are suppose to love chicken,...many jokes abound about us and chicken...particularly fried chicken. Indeed many southerners and people of all kinds love chicken. But the worst stereotype of all foods is that which associated African-Americans with watermelons.

Often depicted in racist imagery is a dark skinned person grinning from cheek to cheek while holding a slice of red juicy watermelon. I know of this and have since found it powerless. It as well as others images serve only to launch me into a hysteria associated with researching the origins of such a stereotype than be bolstered to anger. Yet I know that not all my brothers and sisters share that kind of response. Nonetheless I booked this model to pose for me.

I asked her what she thought of the idea and being more interested in in having pretty pictures made in other outfits ( a offer in trade I made her) she agreed to bring the clothes I requested.

I styled her to lie on a blanket under a small tree. I wanted to captured that blistering sun to add to the high contrast her skin and my light meter would suffer. I suspected I would get reading of f/16 and a shutter of 250. Thus shadows would be deep while her body in direct light would appear slightly over exposed.

I went to the neighborhood grocer and purchased a half of watermelon and refrigerated it overnight so that it would be as delightful to eat as it was to appear glistening under sunlight. I styled my model to look sophisticated and literate.My intent was not to play to the oft depicted pick-a-nanny nor the lawn jockey. Instead I wanted glamour and sexy appeal.

I placed the props on the blanket and began my session. My model chuckled and i laughed as the images where among some of my best.

Since then, I have opened myself up to venturing further into the such cultural terrain. I liken my photography to a walking stick that accompanies and helps me clear away notions of ugliness in my search to find beauty in all aspects of my past. Even the sometimes painful ones.

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