Black Picket Fences by Akea Brionne Brown
Black Picket Fences is a photographic series encompassing environmental portraiture and documentary photographs of contemporary black households and the everyday lives of those who inhabit them. The project manifested through my own personal critique and observation of the suburban landscape as an ideologically “white space.” I began to consider the importance of representation and exposure in relation to the formation of black identity, the performativity of blackness, and the ways in which the home transforms into a place of familiarity and/or unfamiliarity depending on who enters the space. In turn, this body of work aims to highlight an often overlooked group in contemporary American culture: the black, suburban middle class. While this group has not been entirely forgotten, it is hard to define. For some, these photographs might be the first and most intimate form of contact or interaction they might have with a black household.
While chasing these interactions and interior spaces, I was inspired by one central question: If the ethos of the suburban landscape is largely understood as an ideologically “white” space, how do we begin to discuss the paradox of the black suburb and the ways in which it challenges to concept of whiteness? It became important to think about the suburban landscape, not simply in terms of a continuous area, but as an object that has the ability to be altered and shaped to benefit those who inhabit it. Black Picket Fences seeks to highlight, dissolve, and reject the racist construction of the suburban landscape by showing blacks who now inhabit the suburban landscape- a space that was never intended to benefit them.
The portraits are primarily photographed in the suburbs of Baltimore, Maryland, which in addition to having an African-American demographic of over 63%, has gained national recognition as the “nation’s most dangerous city.” By photographing the black community that exists within the city and its surrounding communities, we begin to confront the lack of intersectionality within contemporary representations of middle class- black life in America.
Akea Brionne Brown lives and works in Baltimore, Maryland.
To view more of Akea Brionne’s work, please visit her website.