Written by | Ray Cornelius
I had the pleasure recently of attending the opening of a new and exciting photography exhibition titled “Come to Selfhood.” It is curated by Atlanta-based artist, activist and photographer Joshua Rashaad McFadden and explores Black male identity, masculinity and notions of father figures at Atlanta’s uber luxe Mason Fine Art Gallery.
“Come to Selfhood” answers the question of “What it really means to be a Black man in America in 2016?” The exhibition is told through the photos and words of over eight African-American men between the ages of 20-25 along with the pictures of their fathers or father figures who raised them.
Inspired by the death of Trayvon Martin, Joshua told me during our “UPFRONT” interview that he wanted to create a work that speaks to the issues facing his generation of Black men who are coming-of-age and coming into their definition of manhood.
“I began to think about Black male identity and masculinity back in 2012 when Trayvon Martin was killed and this idea that Black men are perceived as dangerous and hyper aggressive before we even have a say. So I really began to think about that and my peers and how that affects us and wanted to create a project that gave men like me a voice,” said Joshua.
At least two of the male subjects featured in the exhibition attended opening night and were very pleased with their likeness immortalized on the gallery walls.
“Ah man! That’s not me. It can’t be me,” said Marshall jokingly after seeing his photo. “I love the representation and love what he [Joshua] did. The print is amazing and I am glad it came out the way that it did.” Marshall’s piece includes an image of his father even though he was raised by his grandfather.
For twenty something-year-old model, Sherrod, seeing his larger-than-image that is mixed with charcoal and coffee was very awe-inspiring and humbling.
“I feel like as a model, I always like to look at myself first. And I am very pleased at how the photograph turned out. Secondly, I am pleased that Joshua created an image that that can speak to so many different people and lifestyles,” said an emotional Sherrod.
In addition to the exhibition, “Come to Selfhood” is also a coffee table book, which features the photographs and the handwritten thoughts of the participants.
“Oh wow! In the beginning I wanted to do something different as far as identity construction is concerned,” said Joshua. So that’s why the archival image of the father or father figure is included and then also with the handwriting. I included the handwriting to give it that personal touch. It’s the handwriting of the participants without it being edited by anyone and it is straight from their mouths. So with the presentation of the work, it just seem like it would be the best way to present it as a book.”
“Come to Selfhood” is currently on view at the Mason Fine Art Gallery now through Nov. 4th.
See more images below:
Photo Credits: RayCornelius.com