Artist Statement
       
     
The Crossing, 2015
       
     
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Boys, 2013
       
     
Fusa Riot No.1, 2014
       
     
Got The Light, Gotta Run, 2014
       
     
Graceful in West Philly, 2015
       
     
Mimema, 2014
       
     
Tasker Street Glide, 2014
       
     
Prayer For Peace, 2015
       
     
Triangulation, 2015
       
     
Help Us Help Others, 2015
       
     
Your Rights Can Be Gone In A Flash, 2016
       
     
All Alone Tone, 2014
       
     
The Hawk, 2014
       
     
Black Tea, 2014
       
     
Star Power, 2015
       
     
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Hood Tax, 2015
       
     
2014-08-05 14.15.13-4-1.jpg
       
     
Elmer, 2014
       
     
Comin' or Goin', 2015
       
     
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The Look Back, 2015
       
     
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A Young Soul Near The Uptown Theater, 2015
       
     
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'Remarks - The Avenues' by Najja Zimele-Keita
       
     
Artist Statement
       
     
Artist Statement

'The Avenues' was born in 2011, a time where learning about myself, my new self, a street photographer seeking inspiration, took hold and began the journey I'm enjoying today.

The project's inception being after I returned to Philadelphia from living in Park Slope, Brooklyn. It was 2008-09 and I was exploring the many rich nooks of the various neighborhoods, happily getting lost day after day in the maze of streets.

At this time, I wasn't shooting people or portraits, I was more interested in the remnants of human behavior and its interaction, intersection and influence on architecture. I learned a lot about people by reading the graffiti, the jokes, seeing where the paint on the corner would give way to hundreds upon hundreds of daily physical disruptions. But what if those buildings were not there? I soon realized the reality within that hypothetical question.

One of my favorite buildings to observe was demolished in the late summer, and within a few short weeks, the framework for a condo complex was erected in its place. Long gone were the many messages written in school kid's chalk to a graffiti artist's spray paint and everything in between. The wooden skeletal tower cast a shadow across the corners where sunlight used to have full reign.  I had my first taste of gentrification. It was sour, I have yet to observe anything I could call bittersweet. 

I turned my attention to the people, to the individuals and families within many communities, and my work evolved into something largely preservative of the many 'types' of people one could meet in a predominantly African American neighborhood.

I didn't seek out to mimic any particular style from the heyday of film photography, I didn't want to play the role of a tour guide, nor was I interested in exploitative views of poverty and crime within so-called 'inner cities'. These solitary, introspective moments, had to be filled with confidence, pride and sometimes, a sense of detachment from the moment. I sought out color, and commonality of the uses of color from neighborhood to neighborhood, city to city. Often times I would photograph my subject in sojourn with their vanishing spaces in silhouette; not just to protect their sense of privacy, but to symbolize the feelings of their growing invisibility when faced with these larger, transformative forces.

'The Avenues' attracted a great deal of attention to my work, many times as a way of making sense or putting a face on a buzzword. I exhibited the work in three solo shows, several group exhibitions and limited edition prints were acquired by art collections here in the US and internationally.

 

The Crossing, 2015
       
     
The Crossing, 2015
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_MG_0915.JPG
       
     
Boys, 2013
       
     
Boys, 2013
Fusa Riot No.1, 2014
       
     
Fusa Riot No.1, 2014
Got The Light, Gotta Run, 2014
       
     
Got The Light, Gotta Run, 2014
Graceful in West Philly, 2015
       
     
Graceful in West Philly, 2015
Mimema, 2014
       
     
Mimema, 2014
Tasker Street Glide, 2014
       
     
Tasker Street Glide, 2014
Prayer For Peace, 2015
       
     
Prayer For Peace, 2015
Triangulation, 2015
       
     
Triangulation, 2015
Help Us Help Others, 2015
       
     
Help Us Help Others, 2015
Your Rights Can Be Gone In A Flash, 2016
       
     
Your Rights Can Be Gone In A Flash, 2016
All Alone Tone, 2014
       
     
All Alone Tone, 2014
The Hawk, 2014
       
     
The Hawk, 2014
Black Tea, 2014
       
     
Black Tea, 2014
Star Power, 2015
       
     
Star Power, 2015
fur_on_52ndst.jpg
       
     
Hood Tax, 2015
       
     
Hood Tax, 2015
2014-08-05 14.15.13-4-1.jpg
       
     
Elmer, 2014
       
     
Elmer, 2014
Comin' or Goin', 2015
       
     
Comin' or Goin', 2015
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The Look Back, 2015
       
     
The Look Back, 2015
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A Young Soul Near The Uptown Theater, 2015
       
     
A Young Soul Near The Uptown Theater, 2015
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'Remarks - The Avenues' by Najja Zimele-Keita
       
     
'Remarks - The Avenues' by Najja Zimele-Keita

Moving across a stylistic continuum—reportage, editorial, portraiture street, photographer Shawn Theodore’s work is defiant and not simply in regards to labels, but the regime of images that deny blackness its nuance and depth.

Working under the moniker xST, pronounced exist, he reflects a defiant, punk, brand of blackness, one which regards, rules, formalism, aesthetic orthodoxy-- -with a certain contempt. Theodore has spent the past 5 years literally shooting from the hip, following rich Black traditions of improvisational style, to realize a vision of a more artfully driven blend of street and studio technique.

New York City, Baltimore, Oakland, Camden, and Philadelphia have all offered themselves as the lens for Theodore’s exploration of the disappearing Black communities that have been the lifeblood of this country. Theodore’s sensibility for composition is uncanny. Behind the camera he operates like a storyteller, conjuring shadow and light, line and color.  Some photographs open up, radiant before the eye. Others require more of the viewer, like fruit trees, yielding their bounty when most ripe.

Stories lie at the nexus of Theodore’s practice. His subjects and their stories, a continual affirmation for those who, while oft overlooked, are in no way unsure of their own agency. His tough-but- tender youngsters, the effortless élan of church folks, hustlers, pariahs, haints and saints bending the corners of well-worn avenues, all of them stand in defiance of a monolithic, easily stereotyped blackness.

Punk blackness, black punkness, has little to do with music and everything to do with the ties that bind our innumerable Black experiences. that speaks for itself, by itself, in its own idioms and body language.

“When you see my work, you should see me.” – Roy DeCarava