Beyond the endless scope of the constructed “selfie,” smartphones are often used to generate images of public space and events in the broader world. Recently they have functioned as outward-facing image-making tools to capture the upheaval and turmoil of 2020–21 and to document the human side of the pandemic, the fight for racial justice, and the unfolding of the latest US election, among other news.
INWARD features five emerging artists who use the iPhone as a part of their practice and who have turned the lens onto themselves in order to explore and capture the “unseen” instances of their lives today. They experiment with and explore aspects of their interior lives, inner thoughts, and the intimate interactions and relationships that make up their daily experiences both as artists and as people in this time of unprecedented change.
About the Artists
Informed by her career as a professional dancer, Djeneba Aduayom progressed into photography and brought her love of travel, movement and emotive performance into her imagery and subsequent directing work. Drawing inspiration from her cultural mix of French, Italian and African heritage, her concepts and artistic expression are rooted in her personal exploration of the inner worlds of her imagination. In 2020, Aduayom received The One Club for Creativity One Show gold award for her conceptual fashion series “A Pas de Deux” in collaboration with New York Magazine’s The Cut. Her portraits for The New York Times Magazine’s “The 1619 Project” were honored by the International Center of Photography’s 2020 Infinity Awards in the Online Platform and New Media category. The American Society of Magazine Editors’ 2020 Awards also selected Aduayom’s Billboard portrait of St. Vincent as "Best Profile Photograph.” Aduayom is now based just outside of Los Angeles, CA.
Born and raised in New York City, with pit stops in South Carolina and New Orleans, photographer Arielle Bobb-Willis (b. 1994) has been using the camera for nearly a decade as a tool of empowerment. Battling depression from an early age, Bobb-Willis found solace behind the lens and has developed a visual language that speaks to the complexities of life: the beautiful, the strange, belonging, isolation, and connection. Inspired by masters like Jacob Lawrence and Benny Andrews, Bobb-Willis applies a “painterly” touch to her photography by documenting people in compromising and disjointed positions as way to highlight these complexities. Her photographs are all captured in urban and rural cities, from the South to North, East to West. Bobb-Willis travels throughout the U.S. as a way of finding “home” in any grassy knoll, or city sidewalk, reminding us to stay connected and grounded during life’s transitional moments.
Quil Lemons (b. 1997) is a New York-based photographer with a distinct visual language that interrogates ideas around masculinity, family, queerness, race, beauty, and popular culture. His inaugural series GLITTERBOY (2017) introduced Lemons to the world and started a dialogue that would act as a common thread through much of his work to come. In it, he dusted black men with glitter to combat the stereotypes and stigmas placed upon their bodies. This concept of challenging what is acceptable for the black male body developed even further in BOY PARTS (2020). Simultaneously, Lemons began an exploration of the black family portrait with his series PURPLE (2018) and project WELCOME HOME (2018). Images from both projects gave an intimate glimpse into his home life and the modern black American family structure in Philadelphia. Lemons has previously exhibited at Contact Festival, Toronto, 2018; Kuumba Festival, Toronto, 2019; and Aperture, NY 2019. His work has appeared on the cover of Vanity Fair, and publications including Variety, Vogue, and the New York Times.
Brad Ogbonna (b. 1988) was born and raised in Saint Paul, MN, and currently lives and works in Brooklyn, NY. A first generation Nigerian-American and a self-taught photographer, his work focuses on the black experience: his own, as well as the many different iterations he has seen while traveling domestically and abroad as a member of the diaspora. His work has appeared in publications such as The New York Times, The Atlantic, Forbes, Bloomberg BusinessWeek, and New York magazine, and he frequently collaborates with the artist Kehinde Wiley. In 2019, Ogbonna’s work was featured at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis.
Isaac West (b. 1990) is a Liberian-born, U.S.-based photographer, artist, and creative director who specializes in conceptual art and minimalism. West’s luminous portraits evoke a contemporary regality. In 2018, West photographed two issues for Paper magazine, “Higher Ground” (web issue) and “West’s World” (Spring print issue). In 2019, West photographed the actress Zendaya for the cover of the Summer print “Extreme” issue of Paper, and West was also named one of Paper magazine’s “100 People Taking Over 2019.” West photographed Parker Kit Hill for the Spring 2019 print issue cover of Funk Magazine, a magazine dedicated to the LGBT community. Vogue Italia featured West’s third-biggest photography project called “8Minutes & 46Seconds” as a full spread in their 2020 Summer print issue. West’s work was featured in the Aperture Foundation’s 2020 exhibition The New Black Vanguard in New York, NY, which then traveled to Australia and Qatar in 2021.
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