Alanna’s Golden Age

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An Auspicious Intro, Over Drinks ///

We (Keith and I) had the wonderful fortune of seeing The Golden Age By Alanna Airitam via cell phone in July of 2017.  We were at a work function in Vegas with her brother, sharing adult beverages as we’re want to do.  Somewhere in the conversation we mentioned the podcast which was known as “Under the Skin” at the time.  Yes, I’m going to continue to bring this up as often as possible.   He told us we had to see the work his sister had just created.

He pulled it up on his phone and turned it our direction.  I immediately thought “wow”, then I thought “wait those are black people in a renaissance style painting-like photos.  That’s not right, that didn’t happen, that’s off”.  Then I thought but it’s amazing, these photos are wonderful and a smile crept over my face.  We were at a club but I needed to know more so I dove into Alanna’s description of the work.  I stood there in the cramped space and read about it in awe of both the concept and the execution.  I told him that we’d have to get her to join us for our podcast.  Lucky for us that came to fruition.

The work is an imagining, a wondering if you will of what could’ve been.  It is a collection of photographs of black people done in a style very much like that of the Dutch Realism Golden age.  I see the pictures as striking, bold yet subdued, confident, powerful, and inviting.  In the work she has played with the tropes and themes of the period ranging from lighting to the use of fruit to show opulence or wealth.  I would say more but you can read her words and description of The Golden Age for yourself.

An Artist Led Tour

After the interview Alanna took some of her friends and my family on a tour of her art in San Diego.  It’s marvelous to see online, it is absolutely that much better to see in person.  To hear her talk about the inspiration, ingenuity, and craftiness behind making some of the shots work was very cool.  Getting to see her passion as she lights up talking about each and every picture.  Each and every one seems to mean something different to her and they all have their own unique stories.

Stories Behind the Photos

A short film has been made about The Golden age, it’s very good and I recommend a viewing.  At the first screening of it Alanna got up at the end to talk about the work and some of the people in it.  Many of the subjects were in attendance and got up and shared what it meant to be involved in The Golden Age.  As she talked about each photo she recounted their stories.

The one that stuck out to me is related to this photo.  The women in both of these photos are of mixed race, white and black.  If memory serves the woman on the right (red top and hat) mentioned that this photo series is the first time that she has been able to completely present who she feels she is.  There is a journey that I don’t fully understand that many children of mixed ethnicity go through.  In her life she explored both sides of her family and connected more with the black side.  However based on her skin tone and probably other factors people seem to see her as more white.  There was an incongruence between what she felt and what people saw, until this photo shoot.  This got me thinking about our daughter.

Our daughter

Look at the picture again, two mixed women, and a mixed baby standing in front of them.  If looking at the pictures in the historical context we’re imagining it’s almost as if they paved the way for her.  Which to be fair, they have absolutely paved the way for her.  We took the photo before we knew the story.  As we were walking back to the car I was looking at photos and this one stood out to me as soon as I saw it.  I’d love for our daughter to feel whole and to know who she is.  I also realize that her challenges will be similar to mine in some respects and yet very different in many others.  I thought it was pretty dope for her to look up between those two photos for a picture. 

Seeing it again now reminds me that we have to help her be whomever she wants to be.  To help her understand that she is wonderful and capable.  You know the same stuff every parent has to do… plus preparing her for the racial and sexist components.

Fin

If you’re in an area where The Golden Age is showing, please go check it out.  Specifically if you’re not black.  If you see these pictures and you don’t get why they’re beautiful and important you should just go take a look. I’m of the opinion that everyone needs to see this work and to sit with it.  If you’re unable to see it in person check out the short film, you’ll likely learn a thing or two and you’ll get to see some fantastic photography as well.

RodneyKeith Richardson