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Soft Black

By way of ‘a soft Black gaze,’ director, photographer and designer dayday works to subvert the representation of Black people and other POC within the mainstream media – as Casiano Hamer uncovers
words – casiano hamer
photography – dayday
location – new york city, usa

It can be argued that there is a paradigm shift taking place in mass media. A shift in which the cultural image of the oppressed has found real estate in network television, film, music, corporate and commercial channels. The image of Black and brown people fluctuates between vindication and criminalisation in a climate in which racism is lauded on political grounds. As an act of restoration cultural icons, musicians and activists have worked to fill the gap; to alleviate and diminish the prescribed victimisation of minority identities. 

Artist dayday contributes to this ethos from an introspection. In the following series dayday explores what they describe as a “soft Black gaze.”

“I am very much interested in changing how Black people and other POC are perceived [with strong focus around the Black male identity], by using what I like to call ‘a soft Black gaze’ when photographing my subjects,” says dayday.

The artist captures portraits of their subjects often complemented with smooth materials and textures to emphasise their softness. Pearls, gloves and brushes are often items associated with femininity and provide the undermining of masculinity dayday aims for as they strive to showcase a depth in the identity of Black men. “I want to combat the stereotypes that Black people are aggressive, and Black men are hyper-masculine. So I try to approach things in a way that is very gentle and soft,” says dayday.                        

As a queer Black person, dayday uses personal insight to dispel the stereotypes and hyper-masculinity often wrongly attached to their subjects – providing an authentic platform of expression and an unveiled reality of Black identity. “This soft Black gaze allows me to humanise Black people in a way that is rarely portrayed in America, especially when it comes to Black men,” they say.

It is often the misconceptions and limited understandings of Black people and other minorities that cause formidable actions against them, perpetuating a dangerous environment. dayday not only proposes a new look to the Black identity, they also acknowledge the conflict within it. Showing subjects with their backs turned, behind curved metallic bars, or with faces covered, their work alludes to the external forces of antagonism so rife within our current existence. 

Within the frame of each photograph we witness a world dayday has created, where Black identity is beautified and celebrated with the visual grace of a Romanticist painting. Black bodies blossom under gossamers of natural light and 35mm film grain, seemingly evading the clutter of political inquisition and discrimination. A nurtured vision of Black queerness has been extracted from the taboo peripherals of American culture. “Most of my personal work deals with the idea of perspective – how I see myself internally and how the external world views me. Whether that perspective is around masculinity, sexuality, race or ethnicity, my queer Black identity is what drives the images I make,” says dayday.


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