A 21-Year-Old Photographer Brings 70s Black Power to Modern Times

Micaiah Carter's photos empower a new generation of black thought leaders.

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Jun 1 2017, 2:52pm

Black youth culture influences every aspect of today's popular culture from slang, viral dances, internet challenges and highly stylized streetwear, but we don't usually get to see the actual youth creating the phenomenons. Their influence is mostly transmitted through memes, GIFS, Twitter or through video clips. Photographer Micaiah Carter changes that by making photographs of models, actors, musicians and everyday Generation Z-ers in repose that recall both Black Power and Disco eras. Drawing on an array of influences like Carrie Mae Weems, Jamel Shabazz, Alasdair McLellan and Viviane Sassen, Carter blends street style, portrait, and fine art photography to create soft and alluring scenes.

Soul, 2016

Carter, who recently graduated from the New School in New York, says, "I wanted to create a new perspective while reaching in the past for inspiration and guidance." The 21 year-old is interested in creating images that capture the beauty of blackness that bends the African diaspora together.

"I want to create images that compel [black] stories and cultures and 'stereotypes' and create moods and environments that are almost unworldly within the context of blackness. The perspective that I'm bringing isn't focused on denouncing the stereotype instead it's embracing it and taking it back to be culturally accepted in our own words."

Alton in Brooklyn, 2016

Carter's photographic aesthetic is seen in his forthcoming book of photography, 95 48. The title of the book alludes to the years the photographer and his father were born. The book uses Carter's father's photography collection from the 70s as inspiration. "My dad was my age now during the 70s and I find it interesting how his life in a way matches mine in the same fights for equality and acceptance in America," he explains. "My book shows the story of father and son connected through the language of the 70s that also communicates a message about blackness in youth culture today." He adds, "What I love so much about the black power movement is the sense of pride black people had was like no other."

Found Photograph, circa 1971

95 48 is a mix of archival images of Carter's father and his friends that provide a glimpse into the 70s with images by Carter that embrace, what Amiri Baraka called "The Black Aesthetic" to defy European codes of beauty. Carter's pictures pay homage to a myriad of black power styles of dress and today's street style, an outgrowth of hip-hop culture. "The 70s was a time of radical change and acceptance says, Carter. "I try to include that in my photos by using iconography such as the afro, the black power fist bump, and the era's style."

1971, 2017

In 1971, a group studio shot of present day young black boys sporting their hair in various natural styles recreates a black and white image of Carter's father and his friends. The images placed side-by-side in the book, call to mind black heritage and history. In Soul, a softly lit, black girl sports a halo-like afro and hooped earrings, recalling black radical resistance and spirituality. The book also includes street scenes. Alton In Brooklyn, shows Carter's subject wearing a sequin tank top and track pants, holding a ball while standing on a basketball court. It's a sartorial ode to black masculinity.

Carter says, reflecting on publishing his first book, "I really want my photography to be a quality platform for representation of people of color that hasn't been seen before."

For more information on Micaiah Carter's book, 95 48, click here.

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