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The Black Vernacular
March 14, 2012 12:36 PM   Subscribe

"Much of the history of Black people, particularly our intimate history, is still unseen and unexplored." Beautifully understated, The Black Vernacular is a communal memorial to this history.

(The quote is from an interview with photographer Dwayne Rodgers, who runs the site.)
posted by sudama (12 comments total) 42 users marked this as a favorite

 
I would favorite this a million times if I could. What a beautiful and meaningful project.
posted by Sidhedevil at 12:43 PM on March 14, 2012


So this photo grabbed me straight away. It is Mmekutmfon Essien (or Mfon Essien) who turns out to be a fabulous photographer who died of breast cancer at age 34. I think these post-mastectomy photos are self-portraits (NSFW).

Thank you for this site.
posted by yoink at 12:44 PM on March 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


What a wonderful project. Thank you for posting.
posted by rtha at 12:46 PM on March 14, 2012


I like the idea of a communal memorial, but I can't help but it would be more "meaningful" if it included descriptions of who the people are. Otherwise it's just photos of unknown dead people. Regardless of their ethnicity, I think that has limited meaning.
posted by modernnomad at 12:51 PM on March 14, 2012


I like the idea of a communal memorial, but I can't help but it would be more "meaningful" if it included descriptions of who the people are. Otherwise it's just photos of unknown dead people. Regardless of their ethnicity, I think that has limited meaning.

Maybe. I found it powerful just to scroll through it. It really brings home what a hopelessly cartoonish and distorted picture of the black American experience you get from the general media. There's something about the minimalism of the experience ("here, this is just us, being us") that seems particularly powerful. Which is not to say a version with "brief lives" wouldn't have its place too.
posted by yoink at 12:54 PM on March 14, 2012 [4 favorites]


I found these deeply moving, but like modernnomad, I wish I had just a bit more information about each of the people. Even something as simple as year of birth, year of death and the name of the city in which they were born or died.

Still, what a powerful project this is!
posted by lord_wolf at 12:55 PM on March 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


There's something about the minimalism of the experience ("here, this is just us, being us") that seems particularly powerful.

This was kind of my feeling, too, though a little part of me still wants something like "[Name], Chicago, c. 1960."

One of the odd things about the project is how, after a little while a scrolling, they all begin to look like photos of my family. This is funny because my mom's side is white and my dad's is Hawaiian and as far as I know, no side is black. But in all my old family photos there are the dressed-for-church pictures and the kids-playing pictures and grandma-holding-the-new-grandbaby pictures and uncle-with-the-new-car pictures....I don't know. It just makes me feel all fuzzy and connected inside.
posted by rtha at 1:16 PM on March 14, 2012 [4 favorites]


I'm with modernnomad. Documenting something largely undocumented like this is great, but posting photos with names doesn't strike me as worth the billing they give it.

Even just a little context (and by all means keep it minimal - birth and death, year and location of photo, maybe some really basic bio stuff) would have made this seem more like the memorial it's intended to be and less like someone found a shoebox of great old pictures.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 1:18 PM on March 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


This still does leave the history unexplored, really. It would be wonderful if each picture was researched and the unwritten history was actually written.
posted by KateViolet at 2:42 PM on March 14, 2012


This shot got me. I miss a man I never met...
posted by black8 at 2:49 PM on March 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


Cities/dates could be interesting, but I think in view of Rodgers' statements, that information would be clutter. He wants the project to be an aesthetic comment on the uncharted vernacular. He also mentions that he views it specifically not as an archive, but an art object (and "a resurrection"). I find it quite beautiful as is.
posted by stoneandstar at 7:20 PM on March 14, 2012 [3 favorites]


Thomas Gage, Sr. could be the coolest cat EVER.
posted by just sayin at 8:46 PM on March 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


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