" BL | ARCHIVE " - Ongoing
These works consider the historical use of the photographic medium as an instrument of power in the often highly problematic representations of black people. Photographer Bidemi Oloyede seeks to present a counter-narrative to the long established institutional and cultural biases and agendas that have defined the photographic depiction of the black body.
Working primarily in the genre of portraiture, Oloyede uses tintypes, a historical method of image-making in the 1850s, as a dual strategy of critique and creation. By referencing both the historical and aesthetic associations of tintype images of black bodies, his studies of contemporary subjects become studies in reclamation and empowerment. Oloyede’s work functions as a commentary on blackness and the abilities of black people in society being able to be in control of their own image through self-fashioning.
Moreover, by leaving the studio and photographing his subjects in their domestic environments, Oloyede creates portraits of his subjects that not only expand the horizons of classic portraiture but empower the sitters. By showing the subjects in their homes -- revealing their tastes and the decision around their decoration -- thus a deeper and more nuanced image results.
By employing the medium of tintype photography -- the rejuvenation of a historical form and process, the life span of which can endure for generations to come, Oloyede is at once speaking to the ideas of presence, identity and the power of the image as evidence, and acknowledging both the need to build more contemporary black archives documenting the black experience today and the promise of such a project.