American Black Beauty: Micaiah Carter’s debut solo show deals with representation, love, and loss

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“It’s about my family, reconnecting, and showcasing a place where people can feel like they’re at home,” says Carter

Micaiah Carter is best-known for his warm, intimate fashion images, produced for the likes of Vogue, Vanity Fair, Nike, Burberry, and The New York Times. But his debut show, which opens today at New York’s SN37 Gallery, presents a different side to his oeuvre – one that is equally warm and intimate, but distinctly personal. 

Titled American Black Beauty, the exhibition presents fine art, fashion, and documentary photography, and, at the heart of it all, his father’s archive. Last year, Carter’s father, a Vietnam veteran and photography enthusiast, died of prostate cancer. “A lot of this work was made through that mourning and grieving process,” Carter explains. 

The show comprises home videos and photographs alongside Carter’s fashion images that relate to this archive. “In the 70s particularly, there was a style of individuality that I like to carry on in my work,” says Carter, explaining how seeing photographs of his parents and grandparents has inspired his aesthetic. “An outfit can change someone’s whole persona… The outfits that you wear as a kid going to church, or the outfits that you wear when celebrating, I think especially for American Black culture, those are key staples. I wanted to highlight that.”

While honouring his father’s life and influence, the show also looks to the future of young Black generations. Gentle, soothing portraits of his nieces and nephews, pictured in the home or playing in the garden. “After my dad passed, something about new life was really healing for me,” Carter reflects. In a way, the process became an exchange. “Seeing the light on their faces when they see themselves represented like that, it makes me feel good,” he says. In presenting these images alongside high-fashion photographs, Carter hopes to make children like his niece feel represented in the mainstream. 

“[This show is] about my family, reconnecting, and showcasing a place where people can feel like they’re at home,” says Carter, who wants the space to feel personal, quiet and intimate. “I realised this today at the gallery, that this space is like an insight into my brain, because I don’t really talk a lot about my feelings… That’s the most exciting part – I think people are gonna take away a part of me, finally.”

American Black Beauty by Micaiah Carter is on show at SN37 Gallery in New York from 11 February until 27 March 2022. 

All the proceeds from print sales will be donated to Agent Orange Record to provide support for Vietnam Veterans that have been impacted by Agent Orange. 

Marigold Warner

Online Editor

Marigold Warner joined the British Journal Photography in April 2018, and currently holds the position of Online Editor. She studied English Literature and History of Art at the University of Leeds, followed by an MA in Magazine Journalism from City, University of London. Her work has been published by titles including the Telegraph Magazine, Huck, Gal-dem, Disegno, and the Architects Journal.