‘Brown’ Series Challenges The Criminalization Of Men Of Color

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Erica Deeman is making a statement through her work of art. Born to a black mother, the biracial photographer tells The Huffington Post that it was important for her to address the dark history behind black and brown men’s erasure from formal portraiture through her series, “Brown.”

When thinking about men of color in front of the camera, mugshots and physiognomy came to mind, prompting the San Francisco-based artist to capture her subjects in a dignified light. “Men of color historically were not granted the opportunity to appear sympathetic in portraits,” she explained. “That was restricted to the bourgeois.”

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Proofing on a rainy Saturday afternoon #brown #ericadeeman #candelafineart

A post shared by Erica Deeman (@erica_deeman) on

Aware that her craft has been used as a tool to elevate European features and “[criminalize] everyone else,” Deeman has pledged to capture the complexity within men of color through her lens. “I think photography is problematic because so many people see it as the truth,” the Leeds Beckett alumna mused. “It has made people buy into physiognomy and eugenics and all of that. I always joke that the photograph was the biggest lie that was ever made.”

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Placing her recruits against a coffee-colored backdrop bears much significance to Deeman for this reason. “The color represents me…In these photos, I’m saying: ‘This is how I think you should be seen, and this is how you should be seen,'” she said.

She ultimately hopes to shift the narrative attached to minorities in the face of Trump’s America. “With the administration that we have right now, there are extreme limits on everybody who is not seen as ‘traditionally American,’” Deeman continued. “I think that this body of work can challenge some of the stereotypes that some people want to revert back to.”

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