The etymology of communion can be traced back to Middle English to mean “mutual participation”. The term has, of course, changed meaning since then, but throughout its history “communion” has consistently referred to some sort of shared participation or collective identity – a community. Communion is also the name of Los Angeles-based photographer Clifford Prince King’s exhibition, which is currently on display at New Image Art Gallery.
“Communion is a collection of photos from the last year, year and a half," Clifford tells It’s Nice That. “I’m still documenting the spaces and faces around me – capturing moments that are significant in the modern day life of black queers. My work has always felt close to home and is heavily influenced by my personal experiences. The images in the exhibition are shared moments between myself and the sitter; communal spaces, an offering to on another.” Kinship is a key aspect of not just Communion, but of Clifford’s work more generally. His photographs are affectionate, often intimate, and depict loving embraces between young black men as much as they do lonely moments of quiet vulnerability.
Clifford may shoot his subjects as a means of self-expression, but when it comes to exhibiting his work the photographer stresses the importance of self-reflection. “I wanted to gather images that held a strong, heartfelt narrative but are not overly sexualised,” Clifford says. “When showing work in certain spaces I think it’s important to know your audience; this show is in West Hollywood. Most of my personal and more intimate works are not in this show. I wanted these images to be focused on friendship, community and exchanges that are honest and familiar.”
When asked about his favourite photograph from Communion Clifford references Como Park, a particularly poignant image of two men kissing behind a tree. “It was taken in Fort Worth, Texas earlier this year. I was in town unexpectedly and wrote to an old friend who lives there. I wanted to meet him and his new partner, we met and photographed at a park by their apartment. Sonny and David are so sweet and I’m truly grateful they shared their love with me.” Clifford’s ability to capture moments of closeness between two people with unapologetic honesty is clearly where his strength lies.
“My pictures are typically moments in everyday life,” Clifford says. “Communion is an act or instance of sharing, participation in something; that which is common to all. This is what I’m interested in. My photographs show black people in an everyday setting, in the way we see ourselves.”