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Grant-winning portraits of Black women fracture the mythical monolith

Woman on son's bed.
Tiffany J. Sutton

Growing up in the Midwest, Tiffany J. Sutton found herself in predominantly white spaces. She began photographing Black women as a way of reconnecting to a part of her culture that she felt was missing and to talk about social movements. She never imagined that her photography would reach anyone beyond her hometown of St. Louis.

At the beginning of 2022, Sutton was announced as the winner of a $10,000 grant presented by the Black Women Photographers collective and Nikon.

Camera equipment from Nikon and $40,000 in grants were distributed among 12 photographers, including Sutton, to further their practice and projects.

Since launching in July 2020, the Black Women Photographers collective has continued to move forward in uplifting Black women and nonbinary photographers.

Tiffany J. Sutton.
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Tiffany J. Sutton.
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Tiffany J. Sutton

Sutton plans to travel to Iceland to continue her projects Black Landscape and Black Body Radiation.

"Black Body Radiation and Black Landscape are closely connected because I want people to see Black people [feeling] comfortable wherever they are," Sutton says. "The connection is that I'm still using the Black form to talk about Black life and Black thoughts and Black and half-Black imagery in the world."

The comfort of her subjects is a priority because she wants to give women a chance to come alive in front of the camera in these spaces that they claim. These portraits are meant to convey a feeling of ease showing that Black women belong wherever they are.

Her abstract portraiture pushes boundaries and challenges the notion of limitation that has been placed on Black women. She says she uses multiple exposures as a way to talk about the complexity of Black women in their minds, spirit and personality.

"And to show the multitude that's within us so we're not just stereotypically believed that we're a monolith," Sutton says. "We're all [of] these things and more."

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Tiffany J. Sutton

Tiffany J. Sutton lives in St. Louis. Sutton has decided to work with Black women exclusively as a way to reconnect with herself and discuss social movements. Follow her work at tiffjtiffsutton.com or on Instagram: @tiffanyjoy1955.

Michele Abercrombie contributed to this piece.

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