This book is far and away my favorite of the year — I have two copies, one in New York and one in London, so I can show it to people in either place. On the surface, this seems like a simple book: a series of strong color portraits each of which is a work in its own right. Grouped together, however, they become something more. The subject matter is the African diaspora, and the pictures are taken in Africa, the Caribbean and in the United States — specifically in the Bedford-Stuyvesant district of Brooklyn (where I live and I believe Lawson does too). While some of the images were made outside in nature, most were made behind closed doors, in private homes and community meeting places and other inner sanctums. The resulting images have a striking sense of intimacy, but they are not merely “snapshots” — their beauty and power is the result of Lawson’s meticulous care. By “care” I mean first of all that Lawson frames her subjects and their surroundings with compassion and respect; she does not condescend to them in any way. By “care” I also mean that she composes these images with astonishing technical precision. Small signifiers in the works — domestic objects, pictures on the walls, and other bits and pieces — become vividly evocative, resonating with the human subjects living among them. All in all the works build up a picture of strength and beauty in the community they depict, and mark Lawson as one of the most effective and exciting photographers working today.
Nick Waplington is a British artist living and working in New York City, where he divides his time between photography and painting. www.nickwaplington.org