In the media, Black trauma has captured audiences more regularly than Black joy for decades. The sadness and grief that’s imbued within Black life in America is displayed for all to see. What’s so often undervalued is the depth and fullness of the Black experience—the individuals with their own personalities, styles, likes, and dislikes; their positive upbringings, celebrations, and successes.
A Black Bouquet, a series of portraits by photographer Schaun Champion, sets out to alter this narrative. Champion asks her subjects to simply show up as they are. She adorns them with vibrant flowers in full bloom to express the fleetingness of living moments and experiences. Her aim is to capture the Black joy, beauty, and both the ordinary and extraordinariness of the everyday Black world.
How does nature inspire your photography?
Nature is the ultimate backdrop. The most stunning and, to be honest the cheapest, backdrop. A lot of my work is a response to my surroundings. When I incorporate nature into my work it’s a representation of life. The fleeting glimpse we get of it all. It’s my safe place. It’s where I feel the most free.
What are the stories or messages you hope to tell through your work?
Those things that we find more beautiful are so because they don’t last. I want to show how we as humans affect everything we come in contact with… even one another.
Why is it important to showcase Black joy?
As a way to control my narrative and the narrative of my people. Society as a whole has built a business from the stereotypes and trauma of blackness. I was tired of seeing Black trauma everyday, so I wanted to do my part to show the joy, the peace, the love, the community, and the simplicity in everyday life that Black people experience regularly.
What is the significance of flowers in A Black Bouquet?
Black people are flowers— the strength, the delicateness, the natural beauty, and very intentional care needed for them to grow and thrive.
The significance of the flowers is to represent “life” and fleeting moments that we take for granted; the idea that we are born to blossom and bloom, to perish, and will not be here for long and that’s actually what makes us beautiful.