About this artwork
“I have been making photographs in Cleveland that are intended to evoke the sensory and spatial experience of fugitive slaves moving through the darkness of a pre–Civil War Ohio landscape—an enveloping darkness that was a passage to liberation. The photographs help reimagine the past in the contemporary moment; they invoke the historical as it exists in the present. They are loosely based on facts as best we know them, and otherwise imagined. These pictures are not meant to be documentary in any conventional sense.
The Underground Railroad is as much myth as it is reality. It depended for its effectiveness on the secret movements of slaves escaping to freedom, stopping at various “stations” where they could hide temporarily before making their final passage. Traveling with the assistance of sympathetic individuals, or “conductors,” their movements often took place under cover of darkness. My challenge has been to make this history, which has been described in words but remains unpictured, somehow tangible, and to visualize the landscape in a way that resonates in our moment.
The photographs also carry on a conversation with two chosen antecedents. Roy DeCarava, a pivotal 20th-century photographer, printed in rich, dark hues that imbued everyday African American experience with a material blackness. The great American writer Langston Hughes likewise suggested that nocturnal darkness could be seen as a space of tender embrace.”
- Currently Off View
- Photography and Media
- Dawoud Bey
- Night Coming Tenderly, Black: Untitled #1 (Picket Fence and Farmhouse)
- Made 2017
- Gelatin silver print; edition 3/6
- 44 × 55 in.
- Purchased with funds provided by the Rennie Collection