So Black, You're Blue
The cyanotype photographs in So Black, You're Blue explore notions of blackness in relation to the color blue. Drawing upon historical and cultural references, as well as personal experiences, these images expose the vulnerability of blackness in contemporary Western culture. Traditionally, blue takes on two meanings in the black community. The first, being the consequence of colorism, blue-black was a derogatory term used to describe the darker complexion of some African Americans. A product of slavery, colorism stereotyped darker-skinned blacks to be less than their lighter counterpart. To be “blue-black” was to be too black. To be “blue-black” is to be inferior, to be light is right. This traumatizing comparison developed an us versus them mentality that still plagues the community today.
The second meaning of the color blue represented the oppressive conditions blacks lived in that kept them at the poverty line. The redlined housing market, Jim Crow, segregation, and destruction of thriving communities like Black Wall Street kept African Americans from leaving their environment. These communities were also vastly underfunded and underserved, often filthy and dangerous. The 1929 jazz song Black and Blue documented these poor conditions as it was sung by Louis Armstrong. Through the creation of cyanotypes of African Americans, I connect the historical and cultural associations between the color blue and my community. In relating blue to the tone of our complexion and the feelings associated with systematic and long-standing oppression, I expose the vulnerability of blackness to the viewer. As Armstrong so poignantly said "My only sin is my skin."
Brandon Towns is a multidisciplinary artist working in still photography, motion picture, and design. His work explores relevant themes within the black community such as cultural identity, gentrification, police brutality, and gun violence. He received his Bachelor of Science in advertising with a minor in photography in 2020 from Bradley University. He is the first Bradley University student to be the recipient of the Multicultural Advertising Intern Program Fellowship (MAIP) in 2019. He was also one of three recipients of the Sundance Institute's Roger Ebert Fellowship for Film Criticism in 2018. Brandon is currently working as a freelance director of photography for various indie film and commercial productions in the Chicagoland area.
To view more of Brandon's work, check out: https://jakaritowns.wixsite.com/portfolio