The works of fine art photographer Alanna Airitam are on exhibit at the Center for Creative Photography through Oct. 29.
“Alanna Airitam: The Golden Age” celebrates a vision of Black Americans that is uplifting, inspiring and empowering. The artist features contemporary African Americans as symbolic saints who are magnificent and powerful.
“If we don’t tell our own stories, someone else will,” Airitam says. “Art is powerful and can move people. I use photography as my medium to share stories and generate action — and most specifically to empower and remind people of who they really are, despite how history or the media may omit, skew or manipulate our stories to form false narratives about our humanity.”
“The Golden Age” refers to old masters in Dutch painting — Rembrandt van Rijn, Johannes Vermeer — who created images of the merchant class that highlighted stature and wealth. Airitam has adopted elements of style from the era in her contemporary portraits, including dramatic lighting, rich fabrics and symbolism. Her works combine historical references to the Harlem Renaissance and early 20th century efflorescence. Many of the portrait’s titles includes “Saint” and a Harlem, New York, street name.
“This act of reawakening and reconfirming value in one’s self-identity helped me resist the despondency I was experiencing from the increasing number of violent acts against the Black community in America,” Airitam says. “In this way, art has been an act of rebellion and a source of activism for me.”
According to Airitam, the exhibit speaks to the omission and erasure of Black experiences in North American historical narratives and the damaging impact of bias in art spaces. “It is important for me to create work that celebrates Black culture and form while addressing how we’ve largely been omitted from art history.” From her work, a new visual culture arises that focuses on Black beauty, innovation and connectedness. Her portraits, self-portraits and vanitas still life photography ask viewers to question the stories of history and heritage they were taught to believe.
Alanna Airitam was born in Queens, New York, and resides in Tucson. She was named on the 2021 Silver List as one of 47 exciting contemporary photographers to follow. She is a 2020 San Diego Art Prize winner and recipient of the 2020 Michael Reichmann Project Grant. Airitam has exhibited her works at galleries nationally, and three prints from “The Golden Age” have been added to the Center for Creative Photography’s permanent collection.