Micaiah Carter grieves his late father and reconnects with his family through this beautiful new series
The photographer’s solo show American Black Beauty features personal images of his nieces alongside models in fashion shoots, hoping to make the next generation of Black children feel seen.
- Jenny Brewer
- 16 February 2022
Micaiah Carter’s meteoric rise to become one of the most coveted photographers in media today was watched closely and supported abidingly by his father. So when he passed away from prostate cancer last year, Micaiah turned to his craft as a catharsis for his grief. The photographer spent time looking through his father’s own photography and mementos, and reconnecting with close family during this tragic period, taking photographs of them. The results of this experience have been distilled for Micaiah’s new solo show in New York, titled American Black Beauty – a deeply personal series of images that at once aims to look back at the past, as well as forwards to the future of Black representation.
“The story is about home and family,” Micaiah tells It’s Nice That. “It’s exposing my grief through my work.” The show features home videos and archival photographs taken by his father, a Vietnam veteran who as an amateur photographer depicted his view of the people and culture of 70s Black America, amidst the Black is Beautiful movement. Micaiah says his father always encouraged him to be true to himself, and in carrying on his father’s legacy he aimed, in his new work, to see beauty in himself and how he is represented. He also wanted to show his younger family members that they have a place on the walls of a gallery, or the pages of a magazine.
Therefore the show simultaneously brings together some high-fashion shots by Micaiah, displayed alongside beautiful, candid portraits of his nieces, brother, and other family members. What unifies the series – aside from the distinct quality of light Micaiah achieves in his photographs, and the powerful way in which he brings out his subjects’ character – is their celebration of Blackness. The photographer hopes this combination makes children like his nieces feel represented in the mainstream. It’s also what Micaiah describes as a “vehicle for experiencing joy and optimism” as he works through his grief, “an ode” to his family’s lives and the happiness to be found in everyday moments. “It’s been deeply therapeutic to put together,” Micaiah summarises, “helping me reconnect with my family as well. My favourite is the photo of my older brother holding my nieces. In this, I love the intimacy that you can see within the photo. I love this representation of a Black man.”
So, in tandem, the show both honours his father’s life and impact on him as an artist, and looks ahead to the future of young Black generations. The gallery adds that it also draws attention to the void in representation on both sides of the camera – something Micaiah has already made strides in addressing. Proceeds from the sale of select works will be donated to Agent Orange Record, providing support for Vietnam Veterans that have been impacted by Agent Orange.
American Black Beauty is open until 27 March 2022 at SN37 Gallery at the Seaport in New York City.
GalleryMicaiah Carter: American Black Beauty (Copyright © Micaiah Carter, 2022)
Micaiah Carter: American Black Beauty (Copyright © Micaiah Carter, 2022)