His artistic statement is: “Art in its many forms is remarkable, and I couldn’t find myself doing anything else in this world besides creating. Art is peace, art is chaos, art is simplicity, art is complex, art is essentially the many perspectives of this world.”
Alex’s most recent photographic project creates a modern-day iconography of the Black Panther Party. We chatted with him about it and about the power of the black body to inspire and embody change.
How did The Black Panthers Project 2016 come about?
The Black Panthers Project 2016 came about after being inspired by my community and it’s many instances of coming together for change. Whenever I would see these rallies in my city it would capture the many shades and age groups of the world that stands together in solitude. Unity of my community sparked a fire I wanted to shoot and showcase, which is how I came about to creating the Black Panthers Project 2016.
“We are in a state of time that we have a voice, we are being seen, and for the most part we are being listened to creating a social shift.”
What is the aim of this project?
The goal of this project is to show our young community at work. I wanted to showcase that the younger generation is now in power of change, and that beauty in itself I wished to display.
While the body language and some articles of clothing replicate the original iconography of the Black Panther Party, your work has a glamorous touch. It looks like a fashion editorial. How do you balance the intention of conveying a message of racial affirmation and the risk of spectacularization the black body?
I’ve always felt as though the message always speaks loudest to those that relate. Throughout the shoot I reiterate to the models what the intention/mood for this project was. Through visually seeing the models emotion, physical gestures it aids in balancing the superb work of the models, and stylist with the underlying message throughout the shoot.
What are you thoughts on the renewed strong politicization of black fashion and beauty driven by international events like Afropunk and cultural shocks like Beyoncé’s Lemonade: The Visual Album?
What a time to be alive huh? We are in a state of time that we have a voice, we are being seen, and for the most part we are being listened to creating a social shift. In society the issues of not loving our own unique spins on fashion, our many shades of beauty has always been a problem but now we are in a time where we are celebrated. I love the idea of glorifying self love, and that’s what I believe these international events and cultural shocks are currently doing.
“I believe we are force fed so much imagery daily to the point we’ve become docile of the unchanging issues, which is a problem.”
Individualism is a big part of what goes on in the universe of black representation today, making political affiliation volatile. What do you think revisiting the visual history of the panthers means for the contemporary visual politics of blackness?
The visual of The Black Panthers Project 2016 hopefully reminds people that yet we feel excluded at times from society that we must remember we are one and we have people that may not look like us but still in our corner with the best intentions. Our blackness matters, we may be called the ‘minority’, yet we’ve made so many political shockwaves that our issues have become a social issue.
What do you think has changed since the 1970s in terms of the power of the image to drive black politics?
I believe we are force fed so much imagery daily to the point we’ve become docile of the unchanging issues, which is a problem.
“I hope my visuals aid in projecting that sense of unity in the many communities across the world that we are not weak, we can stand as one and that we are capable of social/political change.”
Angela Davis has complained that popular culture turned the panthers into commercial icons, thus counteracting their political strategy by alienating them from the experiences of regular black citizens. How do you envision the “long tail” of your photographic project, what do you hope it will accomplish?
I hope my visuals aid in projecting that sense of unity in the many communities across the world that we are not weak, we can stand as one and that we are capable of social/political change. All I can ask for is that people take this project and glorify it for it’s many layers of beauty. When planning the shoot many ideas came to mind but what my main focus was, was to showcase that the youth now obtain the power of change. In the past we were left feeling as if we were to be protected and now we are the game changers. I wanted to highlight that the younger generation is not only focused on fashion but we are also sharp with what’s happening in our communities and are willing to unite for this change (even if it happens to be in style).