Women in Color: Naima Green, Artist & Photographer

Photo: FLRS Global for The Volta

Photo: FLRS Global for The Volta

Naima Green is strikingly gorgeous. Seriously. She has a subtle confidence and refined posture one would think was learned in modeling school or from years of ballet training. But funnily enough, her profession finds her behind the camera.

As the premiere subject for our Women in Color series, she's a perfect fit. In addition to being a thoughtful artist, she also is dedicated to dissembling the social constructs of Black youth. Her solution? Put them with plants.

Read along to learn more.

Age: 27
Town/City You Claim: Brooklyn
Occupation: Artist & Photographer
Favorite Quote (at the moment): “Make a drawing, begin it again, trace it, begin it again, and retrace it.” –Edgar Degas

1. How important is diversity in art? Does the artist need to be a reflection of their focus, in order to accurately depict their subjects? In a nutshell: How do images of people of color differ when shot by other people of color, versus by white photographers?

I’m all about the F.U.B.U. model. However, if we honor and treat our subjects with care, the dignity should be palpable whoever the photographer is. I’ve seen breathtaking images of people of color by a range of photographers. The images that I value are images where the subject seems to be respected by the photographer. Everyone has the potential to treat their subjects with that regard.

naima green the volta 2

2. What does "the quietude of blackness" mean? Have there been moments when you needed to sit, reflect and compose yourself?

When I talk about blackness as being quiet, it is less about me personally and more about creating a space for blackness to be simultaneously subtle and soft, expansive and confronting, to hold and share all the dichotomies that might exist in one person. There was an antidote I shared recently at a lecture where I explained that someone told me my work “wasn’t charged up enough.” That comment really stuck with me because it was as if this person thought about blackness in a singular way, as loud, as flamboyant, as charged, but not as having the capacity to be quiet and subtle.

Personally, I need my moments of solitude or else I can’t think or make. I need my spaces and my studio to be quiet. It’s less about composure and more about the way I live and function in the world. Quiet is essential.

3. Do you have any plans you hope to accomplish by the end of 2017?

This year I am focused on exploring the different ways my pictures operate in the world. I have a show at the Houston Center for Photography that will feature at least 20 images from Jewels from the Hinterland. Prior to this show, I’ve only shown the work in collections of six or less. I’m so excited to see more of the work in the world, and in print, which how I intend for my work to be viewed.

I make work that operates from a place of activism, work that operates from a more cinematic place, and work that is romantic and rather sentimental.

I plan to make my first artist book this year. It will be a collection of new works made in South Africa last November and older works. I will also start to layout a book for Jewels from the Hinterland, but I do not expect that to be completed for some time. Right now I’m focused on making new work, different work from Jewels, and exploring the different languages my pictures have. I make work that operates from a place of activism, work that operates from a more cinematic place, and work that is romantic and rather sentimental. I’m focusing on combining these languages and forms in my pictures.

4. What are your thoughts on possession when it comes to art? Do we own anything as people of the African Diaspora? Or is culture fluid?

Of course we own things, art, cultural movements and moments, as people of the Diaspora. We create the culture.

5. How important is intention when shooting?

Intention is important in everything that I do, in every relationship that I have, and photographs that I make. It’s important to look closely and examine the things, ideas, and people we love. It’s just as important for me to examine the things I do not like, to think through why I’m repelled by something or someone and perhaps make work from that place.

Photo: FLRS Global for The Volta

Photo: FLRS Global for The Volta

6. Let's talk about joy: In creating your "Jewels of the Hinterland" series, how did you use nature to reflect positive energy? How important was the shooting versus post-production editing?

These pictures make me so happy. After every shoot, I feel full. I’m so grateful that people want to work with me and will allow me to look at them and make pictures. I need my muses.

Once the work is made, or the picture is captured, it feels like the beginning all over again. The second part of the process is in postproduction and printing. I usually take a lot of space from the images once they are made, doing a couple passes after each shoot to narrow down the strongest pieces. But I never start editing right away. Both the pictures and I need some time to breathe. My work is equally for me, my participants, and the people who do not believe (or have not seen) that blackness can exist in this intersection of quiet and confronting. The picture comes alive during post.

7. When did you first know you were a Black girl?

When did I first know I was a black girl? When I look back, it was probably wearing bobby socks and a special Easter dress that my god mother made for me in Philly. I was a kid.

Naima's work will be featured at Houston Center for Photography from March 3 to May 7, 2017, get more information here