By Tom Travis
Aiming to go beyond a photographic study, photographer Jerry Taliaferro hopes his exhibit will help the community explore “perceptions and biases” toward black men.
“Recent events underscore the urgent need for conversations about the contemporary black American man,” Taliaferro said in a press release accompanying the show.
“Any effort, no matter how humble, to foster an understanding of this largely misunderstood and often marginalized segment of the American population is of the utmost importance,” Taliaferro added.
Taliaferro, 68, photographed community-nominated men in early 2021. The 49 men photographed are divided into two sections: first a black-and-white photograph of their faces only, then later in the exhibit a larger photograph. large in color, where subjects were instructed to ‘be themselves,’” according to the press release.
The exhibition is on view at the Hodge and Henry Gallery at the Flint Institute of Arts from Saturday January 22 through Saturday April 16, 2022.
The gallery is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Admission to the exhibit is free for residents of Genesee County. More details on location and COVID protocols can be found at this link.
The day before the opening of the exhibition during a preview for the men photographed, their families and the media, East Village Magazine (EVM) spoke with four men and their family members.
“Just because our skin is different doesn’t mean we can’t make an impact in the world.” – Denis Mitchell
“Just because our skin is different doesn’t mean we can’t have an impact in the world. We are all, ultimately, human beings. We all breathe the same, we eat same way. We must always be united and not in conflict with each other.
“I would like other races and everyone to see this as a representation of black kings making a difference in the world.” – Dennis Mitchell.
Asked about Mitchell’s hopes for those visiting the exhibit in the coming months, he replied, “I would like other races and everyone to see this as a representation of black kings making a difference in the world.”
Mitchell added that it was “beyond words” to be part of the exhibit.
Dennis Mitchell, 23, born and raised in Flint, said, “It’s an honor to be part of the exhibit. Mitchell is director of youth services at the Flint and Genesee Group.
“I’m just the type to like ‘doing the work’ and I don’t do things for fame, I don’t do things for recognition but the more work I do the more recognition I get. So that’s an honor to be recognized among these great black men.
“I think people should take from this that we have made significant achievements and contributions to society and to the world.” – Leon Adams.
Leon Adams, 72, of Flint, a retired engineer, attended the event with his wife Patricia Adams, 71. “It’s a historic moment and I’m among great men here. All of these guys have made significant accomplishments and I’m just happy to be a part of them.
“I think people should take away from this the fact that we have made significant achievements and contributions to society and to the world. And I think that only shows a little bit of it here by reading the stories of all these men.
Patricia Adams, Leon’s wife, accompanied her husband with her arm wrapped around his, she commented: ‘I’ve been smiling ever since his picture was taken. I’m excited about this. It’s a wonderful display and I hope people will come to the FIA to see this display.
“It’s very warmarmed with knowing that the community sees me as an important asset to the community.“ – Deondre Chilton.
DeAndre Chilton, Jr. 18, a Flint resident and student of Grand Blanc High School is the youngest male photographed in the exhibit. “Being the youngest of the men in this show is very important to me because it lets me know that people are looking to me as the future of this community.
“It’s really heartwarming to know that a single photo can capture so much about the person. And what they mean to our community, how they impact the community,” Chilton said. very comforting to know that the community sees me as an important asset to the community.”
He added: “I hope those who visit the exhibit will realize that times really need a change and that the prejudices of before like the Jim Crow era were simply not necessary and that they were too important in the first place. Chilton added the hope that people walk away from this exposure knowing that we, as black people, are not a threat to them.
Chilton reflected on her experience of seeing the photographer’s previous Flint exhibition, Women of a new tribe. He said: “The exhibit really made me realize that black people could be anything they wanted to be and as big as they wanted to be.”
Chilton is in her 13th year at UM-Flint. He said he hopes to continue his studies in software engineering at UM-Flint, Kettering, Howard University, UM-Ann Arbor or the Rochester Institute of Technology.
“But more to show the liveliness and purity of a black man in this gallery – You can’t put a price on that. It’s great to see. -Trevor Norman.
Trevor Norman, 28, described the exhibit as “positive for black men. One thing I really liked going through the exhibit is that it shows everyone smiling rather than a straight face or a mean face. This helps bring out the vibrancy, you can see everyone’s personality in these photos.
Norman said he hopes that when people leave after visiting this exhibit, they’ll realize things like “they don’t have to lock their doors when I walk by.”
“Honestly, just to show a different side to what the media shows. We all know the media portrays black men negatively, whether they commit crimes or show the death of a black man.
“But more to show the liveliness and purity of a black man in this gallery – you can’t put a price on that. It’s great to see,” added Norman.
Keisha Norman, 49, Trevor’s mother, said: ‘It means the world to me to see my son in this exhibit. It’s an opportunity for the rest of the world to see what I see every day, which is a young man who aspires to do great things.
“He’s a photographer, he’s a barber, he loves longboarding – he’s more than just a face that some people see as negativity towards black people. There are so many positive things happening in the community black and we need to emphasize more of it instead of highlighting the negative things.
“There are so many things we can highlight, especially our young men. These men need to be celebrated more for their accomplishments and the things they do in education, helping the community, and trying to bring families together and keep families together.
“All of this matters and we do in our community and this exhibit helps highlight these great things that our black men are doing in our community.”
Pictured holding his camera in the photo, Norman says he hopes to open his own gallery or partner with someone to open one where he can display his photographs.
“I think there are a lot of revelations to be made. We are very proud of that,” John Henry, FIA Executive Director
“This is a terrific survey of a very important community here in Flint. They are committed to this project which exposes many realities about what it means to be Black in America and Black in Flint. I’m hoping a lot of Flints will come forward for this because I think there’s a lot of revealing to do. We are very proud of that,” Henry commented.
“African American men in the Flint community who have had a positive impact…”
The exhibition selection process was based on the model used in the 2017 Women of a new tribe exhibition, which was Taliaferro’s first exhibition at the FIA. In 2021, community members nominated “African American men from the Flint community who have positively impacted individuals, helped those around them in the neighborhood, and created positive change or advanced important issues in the community. community,” the press release explains.
“Visitors will have the opportunity to reflect and reconcile their initial reactions to the portraits, having learned about the men and their stories through text labels and QR codes that lead to artist-led interviews with each man” , according to the press release.
The exhibition marks both the return of Taliaferro’s artwork to Flint and the fifth anniversary of his previous exhibition Women of a new tribe, which turned out to be a popular exhibit.
Although not present in person, Taliaferro appeared on a zoom call in the FIA Theater where customers could engage and ask questions.
A life of photography – Taliaferro
Taliaferro was born in the small southern town of Brownsville, Tennessee, according to his personal website: www.blackartphotoart.com. He graduated in 1977 from West Point Military Academy. While serving at Fort Bragg, his interest in photography began. While serving in the US Army in Germany, his first published photograph appeared in a Munich magazine in 1985. He spent many years in commercial and advertising photography.
In the years that followed, he turned to fine art photography. Taliaferro’s other exhibits include: The Tuskegee Airman Project and Black Women as Muse.
EVM Editor Tom Travis can be reached at [email protected]