John Edmonds is thinking about intimacy. In fact, you might say that he has been meditating on intimacy as an extension of his own faith practice. What has resulted from this deep inquiry is a body of work that has placed the 28-year-old photographer at the center of any serious conversations about the present state and future of the medium. For Edmonds, who earned his MFA in Photography from Yale University in 2016, the process of image-making is the process of building trust between himself and the individuals who he photographs. “In order to be an artist, you have to trust the process, and in order to trust the process, you have to walk by faith,” says the Brooklyn-based artist. Edmonds oeuvre offers up poetic renderings on blackness that rejects exoticism and fetish.
The images that comprise his portrait series of young, black men wearing du-rags, for example, challenge long held assumptions about black masculinity. Edmonds has photographed the men posed with their backs to the camera as the du-rag—itself an important object of beauty and utility in the black community—capturing a vulnerability that is always present yet rarely publicly celebrated. “This is something that has already existed, something that has already deserved our care and celebration.” A recent series of photographs commissioned by the New Yorker on the occasion of the Museum of Modern Art’s exhibition “Items: Is Fashion Modern?” attend to the possibilities of style and gender and fashion as active sites of imagination and revision and fluidity. Indeed, Edmonds lifts the veil, taking seriously the role of fragility, nuance, and fiction embedded in acts of self-fashioning. This treatment, the rigor with which he responds to everyday Black poetics is a never-ending task, a spiritual undertaking unto itself.