Thrall 






About this Project


The images in Thrall externalize my thinking around recent political, social and cultural discussions on white supremacy and Black consciousness.

I was inspired to create this work during a visit to a museum with my children, when we encountered a towering statue of Pandora in front of a large window. In Greek mythology, Pandora is the first woman created by the gods and this sculpture (made in 1871 by Chauncey Bradley Ives) depicts her in the act of opening the box/jar containing humanity's evils.

Despite her divine origin and childlike curiosity, Pandora’s misfortune is allegorically and literally giving birth to civilization’s “dark” tendencies. Pandora’s marmoreal overbearance inspired me to create a photograph that reflects the enforcement of classical ideals of beauty and the production of a normality of whiteness regularly on display in our art institutions.

Thrall alludes to whiteness as a blanketing, nearly invisible pressure. As a mother, I’ve observed this influence even more. WithThrall I endorse the Black Mother’s role as Creator, Author and Photographer. She is no longer hidden as a prop or forced labor. She is superhuman and in control of the image, utilizing the home and immediate environment as her studio.

Regarding mothers, canonized photographers like Julia Margaret-Cameron, Sally Mann and Elinor Carruci are ambivalent influences for me. They have saturated the classification of motherhood in art photography, often upholding Christian or Catholic iconography that I cannot relate to. In Thrall, I do not depict myself with my children, nor am I willing to represent or perform trauma which further perpetuates the camera’s early use and abuse of power as a colonial instrument. Instead, I set out to take a compassionate, protective approach that is reflective of my own upbringing and awareness of the world as a Buddhist.

Moving towards an understanding and acceptance of all things natural, I also seek to (re)discover a Black relationship to the outdoors, without fear. Collaborating with my children, I allow them to dance, be unruly, wondrous and curious in Nature. The images created through their play are an alternative view of the dominant narrative of urban poverty and denial of an unrestricted access to Nature that has historically limited Black children.

Furthering this exploration of the outdoors, I incorporate weed plants as ornamentation in my work, challenging their subjective classification as “invasive” or not worthy of admiration. I contemplate how nature itself has been regulated through the cultivation of plants for the production of capitalism, namely the colonial realms of the plantation and traditional horticulture (or the garden).

In Thrall, I employ photographic elements like shadow and the inverted silhouette as additional characters in my visual narrative. Blending various modes of picture making into a single body of work, I frame a poly-consciousness shaped by my own experiences around identity as a first-generation American, Black, mixed-race woman. I want to question the powers that make dominant narratives legitimate.








About this Project


Integrating the outdoor studio, staged portraiture, still life and candid family photography, the images in Thrall externalize my thinking around recent political, social and cultural discussions on white supremacy and Black consciousness.

I was inspired to create this work during a visit to  a museum with my children, when we encountered a towering statue of Pandora in front of a large window. In Greek mythology Pandora is the first woman created by the gods and this sculpture (made in 1871 by Chauncey Bradley Ives) depicts her in the act of opening the box/jar containing humanity's evils.

Despite her divine origin and childlike curiosity, Pandora’s misfortune is allegorically and literally giving birth to civilization’s “dark” tendencies. Pandora’s marmoreal overbearance inspired me to create a photograph that reflects the enforcement of classical ideals of beauty and the production of a normality of whiteness regularly on display in our art institutions.

The images in Thrall allude to whiteness as a blanketing, nearly invisible pressure. As a mother myself, I’ve observed this influence even more. With Thrall I endorse the Black Mother’s role as Creator, Author and Photographer. She is no longer hidden as a prop or forced labor. She is superhuman and in control of the image, utilizing the home and immediate environment as her studio.

Regarding mothers, canonized photographers like Julia Margaret-Cameron, Sally Mann and Elinor Carruci are ambivalent influences for me. They have saturated the classification of motherhood in art photography, often upholding Christian or Catholic iconography that I cannot relate to. In Thrall, I do not depict myself with my children, nor am I willing to represent or perform trauma which further perpetuates the camera’s early use and abuse of power as a colonial instrument. Instead, I set out to take a compassionate, protective approach that is reflective of my own upbringing and awareness of the world as a Buddhist.

Moving towards an understanding and acceptance of all things natural, I also seek to (re)discover a Black relationship to the outdoors, without fear. Collaborating with my children, I allow them to dance, be unruly, wondrous and curious in Nature. The images created through their play are an alternative view of the dominant narrative of urban poverty and denial of an unrestricted access to Nature that has historically limited Black children.

Furthering this exploration of the outdoors, I incorporate weed plants as ornamentation in my work, challenging their subjective classification as “invasive” or not worthy of admiration. I contemplate how nature itself has been regulated through the cultivation of plants for the production of capitalism, namely the colonial realms of the plantation and traditional horticulture (or the garden).

In Thrall, I employ photographic elements like shadow and the inverted silhouette as additional characters in my visual narrative. Blending various modes of picture making into a single body of work, I frame a poly-consciousness shaped by my own experiences around identity as a first-generation American, Black, mixed-race woman. I want to question the powers that make dominant narratives legitimate.

What you see here is a selection of the images in this series, please contact me to inquire about viewing more.
©Qiana Mestrich 2011-2020 and Beyond!