Art Young Artists 2020

Photographer Texas Isaiah Brings Care to the Canon

A self-portrait by Texas Isaiah (2020)
A self-portrait by Texas Isaiah (2020)

“It’s important to note how much we prevailed within this capitalist system. How much we prevailed within colonialism, anti-Blackness, homophobia, transphobia, all of it... I wish we didn’t have to but here we are. This year has served so many lessons,” c reflects. “Personally, I have been inspired to trust myself more as a human being and as an artist.”

Texas Isaiah approaches the canon of photography, which often misrepresents and erases, with so much power, tenderness and care. Hands in the air, feeling wind between fingertips. Figures are held by grass, trees and large green leaves. Eyes closed and palms sitting comfortably on the body. Eyes filled with pride, making direct contact with the camera lens. In his portraits, we see Black and brown people, and trans and gender-expansive individuals, experiencing a spectrum of emotions and environments. Whether he is photographing celebrities, activists or loved ones, Texas Isaiah allows sitters to meditate on the moment, as they are being photographed.

There’s a sense of serene silence in his images, coupled with moments of exploration and affirmation. As a visual storyteller, Texas Isaiah investigates the relationship between people and physical spaces. “This interest emerged between 2012 and 2013, when a significant number of people I knew passed away,” he says. “When I dove a little bit deeper into historical archives of photographs, I saw there were a lot of people missing from these narratives. Especially Black and brown people and trans and gender-expansive people. I wanted not only to challenge myself but to expand my perspective on who is being photographed and who is not.” Texas Isaiah responds to history by centering narratives that come from the margins. When asked why he makes images, he replies, “it’s an ancestral calling.