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Micaiah Carter Centers Black Image, Style and Beauty in First Solo Exhibit

The in-demand fashion photographer presents "American Black Beauty Vol. 1," a heartfelt show in homage to Black culture and his late father.
Micaiah Carter American Black Beauty Vol. 1 Exhibit 1

What do Zendaya, Selena Gomez, Naomi Osaka, Pharrell, Jennifer Lopez and the Alvin Ailey company all have in common, aside from being iconic pillars of culture? They've all been lensed by esteemed photographer Micaiah Carter.

As a member of an emerging class of bold image-makers dubbed the New Black Vanguard by curator and style aficionado Antwaun Sargent, Carter's photographs transcend the page and screen, blending fine art, fashion, portraiture, street photography and cultural archiving. Now, they're going on display. 

The California-born, NYC-based photographer opened his first solo exhibition, "American Black Beauty Vol. 1," with SN37 Gallery at the Seaport in New York City over the weekend. Up until March 27, it explores Black image, Black style and Black beauty, bringing together Carter's fashion work, recent personal photography and archival ephemera from his late father, who passed away last year. 

"It's so important to document where we're at because I know in the future, it's gonna look totally different than how it feels right now," he says. The name of the exhibit, he adds, reflects the "focus on American Blackness, examining the unique struggles and looking at a way to change that narrative for what it means to be an American, Black person."

The show title also seems to echo the sentiments of the "Black is Beautiful" movement of the '60s, which shifted the landscape of fashion, music and culture in ways we still feel today. As a response to the sociopolitical climate of the era, young Black artists, activists and cultural figures like photographer Kwame Brathwaite banded together to challenge the status quo, through dress, music and politics — the influences of which remain everywhere from the notion of Black Girl Magic and the cinematic universe of Beyonce's "Black is King" to the artistry of hairstylist Jawara Wauchope and the collages of Mickalene Thomas. Carter carries that baton, documenting and thus preserving Black culture today.

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"American Black Beauty Vol. 1" encompasses everything from stunning fashion editorials and personal family archival images to images of his nieces dressed in adorable princess dresses. Having the latter was especially important to Carter: "I wanted to shoot my family — and more particularly, my nieces — because I think this is the next generation that will fully have a concept of their power."

Micaiah Carter American Black Beauty Vol. 1 Exhibit 7

Known for his distinct use of color and intimate approach to capturing a subject, Carter came to fashion through his mom's collection of O magazines. "I used to love the imagery because it was so different from what I was used to seeing," he says. "Elle magazine really opened my eyes as well, specifically to fashion photography. I thought it was so interesting that people made these pictures of designer clothes, but were able to tell a creative story with it. I felt endless and boundless."

Carter's work covers the full gamut, from photographing Vogue covers and music royalty to publishing more personal photo-essays of everyday life and making from a fine art perspective. His contributions to fashion play an important part in the exhibit, but the heart of the show and Carter's new work are a creative response to the loss of his father. From family home videos and his father's personal collection of imagery, "American Black Beauty Vol. 1" is an ode to him and the role he played in the artist’s life. It honors his father's impact, while looking ahead to the future of young Black generations.

"American Black Beauty Vol. 1" is open from February 11 through March 27 at SN37 Gallery at the Seaport in New York City.

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