I was moved to photograph the arrival of COVID-19 in the U.S. because of the severity of the virus’s global impact. There were so many unknowns as the virus arrived stateside. The national and local governments rushed to contain its spread. Unfortunately, the number of victims increased to unprecedented heights, with Black and brown people succumbing in disproportionate numbers.
Just when the curve began to flatten in New York City, the news of the murder of George Floyd rapidly spread over networks and social media, so I traveled to the Twin Cities. When I arrived in Minneapolis, I felt compelled to sit with, photograph, and interview the residents, activists, and people who acted as a support system, to those who were center in the uprisings.
I was interested in the stories that detailed how we arrived at this moment. I knew that this moment of a global reckoning of race and injustice would be historic, and I felt passionately–and even responsible–as a Black documentarian to participate in the storytelling. My portraits document the lived experiences of Black Americans during the double crisis of the pandemic, and the uprisings against injustice.
Featuring: Laylah Amatullah Barrayn
ABOUT THE ARTIST
Laylah Amatullah Barrayn has worked as a documentary photographer for twenty years, and she occasionally organizes exhibitions. She is the co-author of the book MFON: Women Photographers of the African Diaspora, the first anthology in nearly thirty years that highlights photography produced by women of African descent.
Barrayn is a frequent contributor to The New York Times, and has been published in National Geographic, VOGUE, NPR, VOX, among other publications. Her work has been exhibited nationally and internationally, with recent solo exhibitions at The Museum of the African Diaspora San Francisco, The Taubman Museum of Art, Virginia, MAK Gallery, Venice and London, and the Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts, New York.
Barrayn is currently working on a book of contemporary Black photographers.
EDUCATION DISCUSSION QUESTIONS
Whose story resonates with you the most or surprises you? Why?
Why do you think the photographer included images from the pandemic and from the protests? How are these events interconnected?
Why do you think it is important for Black photographers to tell Black stories?