The New Black Vanguard is the latest exhibition to drop at Chelsea’s Saatchi Gallery, celebrating the work of 15 pioneering Black portrait photographers at the cutting edge of their field.
And it is, in a word, stunning.
You’ll step into a vivid world where art and fashion collide, transporting you from the streets of Lagos to New York. There are intimate family portraits, glamorous fashion shoots, and adventurous “anti-selfies” where the body becomes an abstract form. Shot after shot imprints itself on your memory, from Tyler Mitchell’s Untitled (Hijab Couture), blooming with pink flamingo flowers, to the young men standing on the prow of a ship in Daniel Obasi’s Moments of Youth series.
Tyler Mitchell, Untitled (Hijab Couture), New York, 2019, from The New Black Vanguard (Aperture, 2019). © Tyler Mitchell
It’s a deeply personal exhibition, where you can read the biographies of each featured photographer before taking in their work with an appreciation of their own unique perspective and purpose.
The approaches here are diverse: some draw inspiration from history and tradition, as in Namsa Leuba’s images combining contemporary fashion with ritual masks and stilts, while others look to shape the future, like Quil Lemons’ Glitterboy series of portraits exploring Black masculinity. They are all, however, united in their mission to subvert historic, homogenised notions of Blackness, and to capture the multiplicity of experiences through a Black perspective. The New Black Vanguard shows the magic that can happen when representation is opened up not just in front of, but behind the lens.
Quil Lemons, New York, 2017, from The New Black Vanguard (Aperture, 2019). © Quil Lemons
The exhibition has been curated by the writer Antwaun Sargent, who published his book The New Black Vanguard in 2019. The photographs have been touring around the world since then, picking up new rising stars as they go – one of the most exciting walls in the exhibition showcases work by new names who have found unconventional routes into the industry, via social media and zine-making. It’s a jubilant, exciting, and boundlessly creative collection of work.
And this is only the beginning.
NOTE: The New Black Vanguard is on at the Saatchi Gallery until 22nd January 2023. Tickets cost £10 – you can find out more, and book, HERE.
The New Black Vanguard | Saatchi Gallery, Duke of York’s HQ, King’s Rd, London SW3 4RY
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