“I want to do this for ‘us.’ We don’t get to see images of ourselves presented in a grand manner,” said Brooklyn photographer Russell K. Frederick when asked why he creates the images that he does. For the past several years, he has been on a mission to document the changing face of his own neighborhood of Bedford-Stuyvesant in Brooklyn, where he has lived for the past 17 years. After collecting thousands of images, he is now reaching out to his community to fund an exhibition of his work.
“Hip-hop is not an honest reflection of our community,” Frederick says. “There is a lot more to our lives than what you might hear in some of these songs.” The drive to present positive and uplifting representations of the community of color in which he lives is a huge factor in the photographer’s work. “We don’t get to see nurturing images when we see ourselves in the media. When people see my pictures, I hope they feel a little bit better about themselves.
The images Frederick produces are of the everyday kings and queens and the occasional court jesters who fill our lives, but are rarely deemed worthy by the establishment, in art and otherwise, to be elevated and honored. An up-close view of the hands of a laborer. A portrait of a small business owner. Revelers at the annual West Indian Day Parade. These are just some of the subjects of his camera.
Perhaps the best adjective to describe Frederick’s photography is dignity. All too often when we see images of people of color they are in handcuffs or playing the minstrel. This photographer shows us as we are, the “us” that the outsiders who dominate the conversation about how we are defined never get to see. These are works of art that powerfully refute the argument that “Black” can be defined only one way.
Frederick hopes to raise $10,000 to mount a public exhibition of his work through the Kickstarter website (www.kickstarter.com/projects/957947489/black-a-solo-exhibition-with-russell-k-frederick). He has already raised an impressive $2,700 in just a few weeks, but needs the help of his community to raise the rest of the funds. Additionally, he is available for portrait and assignment work.