Tyler Shields, a 33 year old photographer from Jacksonville, Florida recently released his newest exhibition of work entitled, Historical Fiction. This exhibition is inspired by the Civil Rights movement and takes a twist on iconic images from that era. As anyone knows it is the artists of a generation who chronicle the pain and truths that the rest of society is often unwilling to face.
Shields, who maintains that his is not a politically motivated person, confesses that he hardly even watches the news. Shields began work on his series months before the killing of Michael Brown. He states that the 9/11 attacks were the starting point for him.
One of the first things I thought about was that people are very quick to do whatever they want to other people, no matter how fucked up. It’s like, OK, you like to hang black people. That’s fucking disgusting. But if someone did that to them? Agh! It’s the craziest thing. They can’t handle it.
So while Shields’ may not have been completely motivated by the recent battles with race relations that the country has been experiencing, it is evident that his work is timely and makes a relevant statement for where we currently stand.
The work is my statement. That’s my take on it.
One of the most provocative images in the series is the one depicting a nude Black man lynching a KKK member. This image is so powerful because the many images of Black people being lynched by mobs of
KKK members and their racist supporters has often been a jarring visual to take in. However, something strange happens when we see the roles in reverse. The first thing I felt was a sense of wrongness. One that doesn’t come from seeing Klansmen do the same thing to Black people. Perhaps it is some level of desensitization that comes from swallowing too much reality. Or maybe it’s because there’s a looming fear that the ending of the story caught in that one shot will most likely be tragic for the Black man. Becaus ein any true Civil Rights retelling he would have paid for that moment of triumph in blood. Whatever the story, whatever the emotion, it makes one question why this image seems so much more…taboo than the real ones we see. That in itself exposes the ingrained trauma that our history has inflicted upon us. And the fact that one feels what one does gazing upon the image tells us that we have yet heal from the trauma.
I’m not sayin; I’m just sayin,
An Angry Black Man