For New York–based photographer Eric Hart Jr., photography presents an opportunity to portray what liberated Black and queer lives look like and show that to others. “The photos I create aim to foster consciousness and amplify the beauty that lives within folks who look and love like me,” he says. Growing up in Macon, Georgia, Hart often took pictures of his friends or his grandmother’s yard with his iPod; eventually, he was gifted a DSLR camera and taught himself the foundations of photography by mimicking what he saw on Tumblr and other social media sites. From there, he went on to study at New York University (NYU), where he was mentored by artists such as Dr. Deborah Willis and Zun Lee and worked at publications such as i-D, the New York Times, Rolling Stone and V magazine. “I think the biggest takeaway from my time at NYU was the notion that art—and specifically photography—can be used in a way to question, challenge, demystify and interpret life,” Hart says. “Understanding this caused the ultimate shift in my practice.” Exploring power dynamics, liberation and strength in his work, Hart has a few signature techniques that he uses to enhance these themes. “I intentionally pose the gestures and facial expressions of my muse to suggest comfort or discomfort, causing questioning,” he explains. “I intentionally frame at lower angles when I want to display power and have subjects feel mighty. I intentionally find ways to create textures in front of the lens to grab the viewer’s attention and cause them to engage with [the] subject matter. I intentionally edit with an intense contrast and the deepest of blacks because I want my work to be as Black as it can be. I want you to look beyond the Blackness: Dig deeper. Think. Explore the subtleties. That’s where you’ll find the truth.”
Whimsical and macabre, the work of this Chinese-born, New York–based illustrator portrays the experience of women in contemporary society.