During the summer of 2020, I bought a camera and some film.
I was not interested in capturing Black joy or Black pain.
I was interested in showing everyday Blackness.
I looked through the viewfinder.
I aimed. I shot.
I could see vividly with clear eyes.
I could feel viscerally with all my senses.
I saw beauty, unease, change, lightness, community, oppression, endurance and fuckery. You know? Those lived experiences that have challenged, sustained and solidifyed Blackness since it was created.
How ironic that the compositions which were so real to me came back blank.
I was left with film that showed no images, but still showing edge signing.
This indicated the film had not advanced to enable any frames to be exposed.
This news was reported to me by the white man working in the camera store with a cool, dettached nonchalance. That cool dettached nonchalance I’d become so accustomed to. My blood began to boil, slowly — not necessarily at the loss of the shots, but that this experience felt so parallel to my experience of America in 2020.
I spent months thinking I was making something worthwhile, meaningful and beautiful from places of decay and pain. The embarrassment of having faith in broken equipment. The embarrassment of nothing to show for the sheer time and work put in behind the scenes. The embarrassment of believing in recognition and permanence, if only for a second.
The experiences of 2020 suddenly became a figment of my imagination.
Archived nowhere but in my mind’s eye.
Nowhere to be found in America’s reality.
But they’re so real.
[Frame 1: A Black man sits on a beach. The sun is shining. His face is radiant with light. The sea shimmers in the background. It’s close up. His eyes are glistening. He’s smiling, relaxed looking directly at us with his body leaning towards us.]
[Frame 2: The same Black man sits on the same beach. The sun is shining. The sea shimmers in the background. It’s close up. In the background are the glare of police lights. There is a police van on the sand in front of the sea. He’s looking off into the distance. He looks defeated. The elements within this shot appear incongruous.]
[Frame 3: Two Black women are marching amongst a sea of white protesters. We see their backs. One woman has twists and the other has a shaved head, dyed orange. They are holding each other tight around their waists with one hand and in the other hand are holding signs which read “Justice for Breonna” and “justice for Tony McDade”].
[Frame 4: A dead squirrel lying amongst a bed of roses].
[Frame 5: Close up of one Black women hanging out of a window handing flowers to another Black woman.]
I wish I could show you.