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Color portrait of Andrew Thomas Huang

Writer and Curator Antwaun Sargent Talks About Creating Opportunities for Black Photographers

Writer and curator Antwaun Sargent is a multi-faceted talent who has long looked for ways to rethink the art world and its relationships with other areas of culture. “I’m interested in a lot of different platforms, a lot of different institutions, rethinking certain institutions, rethinking certain parts of our culture,” Sargent recently told Brooke Jaffe for “ARTnews Live,” our ongoing IGTV series of interviews with a range of creatives.

One way that Sargent has manifested this is through his 2019 book, The New Black Vanguard: Photography Between Art and Fashion, which looks at the ways in which 15 Black photographers are working at the intersections of art fashion. The book focuses on image-makers between the ages of 20 and 36, “to first sort of focus on a younger generation of artists, artists who were all emerging in their own sort of way.” The work of these artists “has a generational component to it.”

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Color portrait of Andrew Thomas Huang

[Read an interview with Antwaun Sargent about The New Black Vanguard.]

The cover of The New Black Vanguard is an image by photographer Tyler Mitchell, the first Black photographer to shoot a cover for the American edition of Vogue magazine, which he did when he photographed Beyoncé in 2018. Mitchell’s New Black Vanguard cover image serves as a duality between image and advertising, which Sargent said is inherent to our generation of image-makers. “A lot of photographers that I feature in my book who have gone on to do work for Vogue a decade ago, their predecessors were all but locked out of that opportunity,” Sargent said. “I think it was a question of, how do you have a career as a Black photographer and not have the same opportunities that are available to white photographers?”

Nevertheless, Sargent said he believes change is on the horizon. Change can be partially attributed to “the explosion of these young artists,” who dominate the virtual world. “You cannot go online without encountering their images.” Furthermore, he said, these artists have begun to turn away from showing at and partnering with institutions. “There was this shift in this generation of artists where they’re less interested in institutional validation in a way that previous generations’ ultimate goal was to rush inside the institution,” he said. At the same time, however, they are being “validated by the institution.”

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