Brian Shumway – Black Girl
“Modeling is an addiction.” Johanie, 24, aspiring model
“Black Girl is an ongoing portrait series about young black women in the New York City area who aspire to be models of all types. It grew out of a perceived need to expand my work beyond just documentary and into portraiture and ‘fashion.’ So, I began to shoot models, contacting them through a modeling website. As I did, I noticed something. We all realize, at least in some way, that the mainstream fashion world is white-washed, especially at the high-fashion end, and successful black models are very rare by comparison. What I found was that even though there are so few black professional models, literally thousands and thousands of young black women (just within 50 miles of my zip code, according to a search on this one site alone) are striving to attain that dream, or at least their interpretation of it.
Despite an economy that has hit the fashion, advertising, magazine, and retail industries quite hard, the women here have high hopes and remain steadfast. They work hard, often juggling school, work, family and relationships to find a few hours a week to squeeze in a shoot, or perhaps two if they’re lucky. The women here are a cross-section of real people who want to do anything from traditional fashion, print or commercial work to eye-candy or even artistic nudes. Their interests are varied, as are their looks and beauty, but this one dream ties them all together. Peering out from behind that dream are some fundamental human issues that touch upon identity, body, beauty, sexuality, fantasy, race, and the drive to be recognized in a culture obsessed with fame and celebrity. I hope that these portraits can in some way contribute to their pursuit.”