JOY (1999)

Geist - - Photoessay -

This lit­tle girl’s mother was slow­mov­ing, quick to smile and trust­ing. When I asked to take pic­tures of her daugh­ter, she just nod­ded agree­ably and sat on a nearby porch to watch us. The lit­tle girl was a fire­cracker, filled with en­ergy, wit and good hu­mour, and I knew she would give me a lively im­age. This bothered me al­most as much as it pleased me. Poor black peo­ple have too of­ten been rep­re­sented as some­how en­no­bled by their poverty and re­pres­sion, some­how bet­ter able to reach deep and pull up re­serves of joy and warmth found be­neath the ad­ver­sity in their lives. But poverty doesn’t work that way. The sim­ple joys of the poor, un­bur­dened by pos­ses­sions and ex­ces­sive am­bi­tion, are a guilty in­ven­tion by the rest of us. I tried to con­strain the rep­re­sen­ta­tion of this girl’s joy by im­pris­on­ing her in straight lines of black and white and to present her as though she were over­seen by the tall win­dows at her back.

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