Consequently, my project, The Letter, strives to show black men in a positive light much opposed to how they are portrayed in the media, which unfortunately perpetuates these stereotypes. Instead of giving the viewer an extra ordinary perspective of who the black man is, I want to show people how human he is. By doing so, I normalize his existence and his role in society. Like a genre painting – a 17th-century style of painting that depicts regular people doing regular things – my photographs show these men going about their daily lives doing things that any upstanding citizen would do. I also wanted to use the project as a means of communication between me, black men, and society as a whole, in an effort to highlight the truths that already exist.
In the planning stage of this project, I asked myself, ‘what would be the best way to show these men as human?’ The answer was to go into spaces where any man would go, such as the gym, the barbershop, on the job, and in the home. I wanted my photographs to reflect real and candid scenes of everyday life so the viewers could see for themselves what is already there. When Covid-19 began spreading and the city of Atlanta shut down, it meant I could no longer go out and make photos the way I had planned.
Everything had to be reevaluated so that I could continue what I started. Thus, I began conducting virtual interviews on Zoom, which gave me a raw insight into how the men actually felt. This was a blessing in disguise as my vision for the project soon expanded. Messages about black men were not only sent like letters from me to the public, but the men themselves were now sending their own letters, in their own words. During this process I became very fond of everyone I interacted with, but especially Mustafah Meekins who coaches boxers in Atlanta, Georgia. He is the first of many men whose stories I want to showcase for the world to see.