5x5: “Beneath Our Glory”

by Jonathan Gardenhire

5×5 features five photographs by five photographers, usually curated around a specific subject matter, selected by a guest editor.

Jonathan Gardenhire is an artist and community leader whose work explores representations of race, masculinity and sexuality, most often with an emphasis on black men. Using traditional methods of photography, such as studio portraiture, and more contemporary methods, such as appropriation, Gardenhire’s work traces a “mis-history” in an attempt to redefine and reclaim black identity through a variety of imagery to reshape perceptions of black humanity at large. Gardenhire most recently was featured in the 2017 VICE Photo Issue.


I have been thinking a lot about how photographers make and interpret pictures to their fullest extent. How can we get to the innermost feeling- the innermost intent that a photograph holds? Who decides this? What are the pictures that carry the most importance to us? And how much memory, history, and meaning are jam-packed into those images? In my own practice, I assemble still-lifes that examine how groups of pictures relate to each other and the objects around them. I am interested in how blackness has been visualized throughout history and what happens to the way we see when images are grouped in less apparent ensembles. Often displacing meaning — utilizing images from a variety of archives — those pictures are vessels of association for ideas. They are like brain maps that encourage exponential intellectual growth and practical prolificacy.

One could argue that the pictures we hold dearest to us are from our family albums. As some of first archives we encounter, our family albums contain the soul and secrets of our ancestors, allowing for moments of vast discovery in the time spent with the images. They can be seen as how Keisha Scarville describes her Passports series — a “constellation of evidence”; a device for commemoration and tool for reimagining the image of our families in relation to our personal histories.

The image-makers I have chosen to highlight preserve our respective stories and propose a type of curiosity that can lead to striking, revolutionary new images. From Elliott Brown’s In The Vein of the Father, which brings the family album to life as he considers his relationship with his father, to Tiona McClodden’s hauntingly surreal film stills and posters of superimposed images of her family and a firework light show, each artist questions how images and ideas of blackness and family are constructed. Simultaneously, these artists illustrate a trend of democratizing the personal — our families — for art’s sake. The consideration of the physical photograph by these five individuals pushes image-making to illimitable heights that are both pleasantly familiar and incredibly innovative.

from Passports Series by Keisha Scarville @scarvillek
My Brother, Me, My Cousinfrom This Is and This Isn’t My Family by Kalen Na’il Roach @roachmaster
from How to Mend a Broken Heart, 2013 by Karl Ohiri @karlohiri
Be Alarmed The Black Americana Epic, Movement I — The Visions Presskit, Lobby Card #4 by Tiona Nekkia McClodden @tionam
Excerpt from In the Vein of The Father by Elliott Jerome Brown Jr. @elliott.jerome