In 2018, I was visiting my relative successful Dallas erstwhile I remembered that a person from Portland had moved there. I hadn’t seen him successful a portion and heard helium had a caller partner, truthful I asked if helium wanted to drawback up. The infinitesimal I saw him and his boyfriend, I wanted to photograph them. They were some wearing akin clothes, and thing astir the matching colour palette made them consciousness similar a pair. We took a locomotion done Como Park, wherever I spotted this tree. I asked them to basal down it and clasp each other, with their faces obscured.
What struck maine was the interplay of intimacy and anonymity. It’s this tender moment, somewhat hidden. We tin spot that it’s an embrace, but we can’t spot who it is. It’s a backstage infinitesimal but successful a wide unfastened nationalist space. It made maine deliberation astir however they – and I – arsenic queer Black men, conflict to beryllium seen for our existent selves successful antithetic spaces.
At the time, I was making a batch of enactment that played with the thought of hiding, being successful the shadows. Lots of my subjects were anonymous. Sometimes that was to support their identity, different times conscionable to marque them much comfortable. With a face, you spot it and it’s beauteous oregon it’s acquainted oregon it’s immoderate you mightiness feel. When it’s anonymous, there’s ambiguity. That creates abstraction for the spectator to enactment themselves into the scene.
I privation to make an archive of images I would person liked to spot portion I was increasing up. When I was younger I did not spot images of Black queer men, peculiarly not successful this brushed airy oregon successful these tender moments. A batch of images of queers passim past are nightlife scenes, oregon bodies tangled unneurotic connected piers – often moments of hedonism that don’t marque abstraction for the much mundane oregon home things successful mundane life.
And overmuch of the practice of Black men was a benignant of Boyz N the Hood aesthetic – hypermasculine roles that didn’t seizure maine oregon the radical I knew. So I’m creating what I didn’t spot successful the anticipation that young queer radical tin fast-forward done immoderate of the shame oregon guilt that they tin beryllium made to consciousness astir their individuality and sexuality. I consciousness similar if I had been exposed to this imagery, oregon if the acquisition strategy had had a abstraction for queer existence, it would person helped maine debar a batch of pain, uncertainty and grief.
Some of these kinds of images bash already exist. But truthful galore of them person been lost, and adjacent those that are contained successful archives oregon depository collections, you’ll often find that the lensman is unknown, oregon that the idiosyncratic who made them wasn’t a lensman arsenic specified – it was conscionable thing they pursued connected the broadside due to the fact that determination wasn’t abstraction for them to make enactment successful that world.
Things are changing, though. People are opening to recognize that these images are worthy of abstraction and consideration. Today there’s little gatekeeping and much artists and curators of colour, much spaces for number artists.
I don’t deliberation of my photography arsenic portraiture. I spot it much arsenic capturing a infinitesimal successful time, a circumstantial acquisition successful which I’m the spectator arsenic overmuch arsenic anyone else. Most of the enactment I marque is of radical I know. They tin beryllium aged friends, oregon conscionable acquaintances, but it’s important that I found a narration with them. On the uncommon occasions I’m photographing radical I don’t know, I’ll usually get java with them first, oregon adjacent marque a repast together, truthful that erstwhile we travel to making the images there’s a level of ease, comfortableness and respect.
I anticipation that shows successful the images. And I anticipation my enactment encourages different radical similar maine – who haven’t been to creation school, who’ve travel from number communities – to judge successful themselves.
Clifford King’s CV
Born Tucson, Arizona, 1993.
Influences Gordon Parks, Nan Goldin, Deana Lawson.
High point “Being successful a group show astatine Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art.”
Low constituent “I deliberation that’s yet to come.”
Top extremity “Do what you privation – and critique later.”