I don’t think I’ve ever seen so much strength in photographs.
This is what was running through my mind as I came across Atong Atem’s photographs online. The various postures, textures and the dark skin of the subjects in her photographs communicate images of blackness that we can all relate to. Her most notable work is Studio Series, a series of photographs explores in her own words “studio photography in Africa. The first photographs ever taken of Africans were colonial ethnographic depictions that presented the subjects in a really skewed and problematic way – I wanted to see what happens when we turn the lens on ourselves and subvert that ethnographic gaze.”
As a southern Sudanese artist living in Melbourne, Australia, she began to create art that represented her culture (and dark skin) as something she wanted to celebrate and influence other black artists to recreate in their art.
“I’m exploring culture through colonialism – what we’ve been denied and what was stolen from us. I examine the importance of reclaiming your self, identity and culture through colour, clothing and especially through replicating iconic studio techniques and symbols (such as flowers, colourful backdrops and specific poses).”