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In the second within our four part series, Home being a state of mind , Naima Green discusses her project J ewels from the Hinterland: portraits of New York creatives from the African diaspora within green, urban spaces
“When I think of home, I think about freedom, ” Naima Green describes. “I think about a place where you can truly be yourself. A place of safety, play plus pleasure. ” In Jewels from the Hinterland , the New York artist makes portraits of creatives from the African diaspora in green, urban spaces. Every photograph is loving plus tender, a meditation on the restorative power of character and our relationship towards the land.
The environment is a palpable foreground to her encounters. It envelops the girl sitters, sprawling, lush, open and ever-growing, infusing quietude and life force into the scenes of Black neighborhood it depicts. Politics underpin Green’s poetic photographs. Jewels from the Hinterland is a rejection of the cultural tropes of picturing Black life towards gradations of grey. Rather, she interrogates the constructed environment and the cycle associated with myths it perpetuates, trying to bridge the gap in between fraught visual histories and life today.
Responding to the prevailing and pervasive images of Black people in Bruce Davidson’s Eastern 100th Street and Gordon Parks’ A Harlem Family , Green’s work offers an alternative narrative – one which transcends violence and injury. “I’m not interested in denying those realities, ” says Green. “I’m focused on the fact that Black people are only situated in urban decay. When we only see images of loss of life and grit, this leads to thoughts that Black life is throw away. I’m interested in what it means to find out Black life in conditions that are growing and vibrant. This is a reality I know is real and true, yet I didn’t see anywhere. ”
Such as many of Green’s projects, neighborhood is at the core from the work. Jewels from the Hinterland is more than just a collection of pictures. It is an ecosystem of interconnected relationships formed over 10 years, traversing New York, Houston, Miami, Oakland and Chi town.
“There really are a few different utopias that will I’m reaching towards, ” says Green. “With the particular project, I’m thinking about normalising seeing Black and Brown people being outside, simply existing, and not having to worry about the risks of daily life that we actually have to think about. I want people to get access to space that makes them really feel vibrant and full – spaces of possibility. ”