In Xavier Scott Marshall’s black-and-white imagery his family and friends play religious figures throughout colonial history
The New-York based photographer reconstructs Judeo-Christian icons through the prism of modern Black life.
One look at Xavier Scott Marshall’s photographs and you’ll become engulfed in his staged world. Another, deeper look, and you’ll realise that this world is a cultural and aesthetic reconstruction. Born and raised in New York and across the United States, to Trinidadian parents, the photographer can trace his love for imagery back to early childhood. “I was around eight, and by the time I got to high school, I started taking darkroom courses.” And today, he boasts a deep familiarity with both his process and subject matter, creating grand black-and-white imagery of mainly family and friends, that he processes and prints by hand.
All of Xavier’s photographs are connected by a religious thread of “decontextualised religious icons, saints, and martyrs across various cities in the United States and Europe that reflect the colonial history of image-making”. Simply, his work is a reclamation of divinity, but more importantly, it traces the Black experience through these periods, by taking cues from modern Black life. With inspirations such as the perception-shifting and explorative paintings of Kerry James Marshall, the identity, power and gender representations found in Carrie Mae Weems’ photography, and the multimedia works of Lorna Simpson, he absorbs and exudes the Black experience from a uniquely surreal perspective.
Xavier Scott Marshall: Hanging Rayim, Hanging Rayim (Copyright © Xavier Scott Marshall)
About the Author
Yaya (they/them) joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in June 2023 and became a staff writer in November of the same year. With a particular interest in Black visual culture, they have previously written for publications such as WePresent, alongside work as a researcher and facilitator for Barbican and Dulwich Picture Gallery.