Nicole Buchanan: The Skin I’m In
I’ve always felt that what every human wants is simply to be seen. Seeing leads to understanding, appreciating, and recognizing ourselves in each other. We are living in a critical time where seeing each other is more important than ever. Photographer Nicole Buchanan has created a powerful and painterly typology of faces and skin tones that allow us to explore our humanity and understand our connectedness. By photographing her subjects in a consistent approach, Nicole manages at the same time to reveal similarities and unique qualities. “I wanted to challenge the idea that black men and women are viewed similarly, with stereotyping and racial profiling.”
Nicole Buchanan is a recent graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design with a BFA in photography. Nicole is noticed for having a unique ability to network amongst her colleagues and explore new innovative mediums of expression through the art of photography. Upon graduating, Nicole is the only student in her class who will be represented by a gallery in Boston, Gallery Kayafas. While Nicole was at school, she was asked by many art galleries and museums to display her work at Harvard, RISD’s museum, Griffin Museum of Photography and more. Harvard was compelled to host Nicole’s work during their Reflections on Freedom, Dr. Walter J. Leonard Black Arts Festival because they wanted to foster outstanding creators in the art community. Additionally, Nicole’s work entitled The Skin I’m In, tackling race and identity at Rhode Island School of Design was recently featured in the Boston Globe. Nicole is an enthusiastic, young photographer utilizing her skills and experiences to create access to emotions that are usually unseen. Nicole continues to lead and create with her school of thought in photography to inspire change in the world.
I have chosen The Skin I’m In as the title of this body of work because the difficulties faced by minorities of being viewed as less valuable are due to the very color of their skin. Skin color has been used for centuries as the focus of discrimination. I created this body of work with the intention for it to be used as a tool in starting discussions around race and identity.
The Skin I’m In asks the viewer to consider the dignity of the individuals who self-identify as African, African American and from the African Diaspora in uniformly posed solo portraits taken in a luminous setting. Each person is emerging from a black background in the tradition of the Italian painter, Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, whose soft directional lighting gently highlights the dimensionality of facial features, tonality and texture of the skin. Symbolically, my subjects are stepping out of a darkness filled with fear, misunderstanding and confusion into a rightful sense of clarity. The resplendent range of skin tones and textures portrayed helps to challenge the stereotype of these individuals being viewed similarly. Impartial expressions, neither aggressive nor submissive, defy racial presumptions by viewers. The uniformity of composition underscores the similarities, while each portrait possesses particular features and nuances. These portraits will help the viewer realize all people merit respect, whatever skin they are in.
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