Ming Smith's Pioneering Excavations of Black Femininity

3 min read
Yxta Maya Murray writes on the photographer Ming Smith, the first African-American female photographer to have her works enter MoMA's permanent collection, and on her portraits and self-portraits of Black femininity.
Smith photographed many famous Black cultural figures in the course of her career, and her images of Black women communicate the resilience and vigor necessary to flourish in the face of society's exclusions. In "Grace Jones, Studio 54" (1970s), the performer doesn't so much pose as unfurl herself before the camera, wafting a gilded scarf over her head and shoulders, wearing bewitching black-tinted glasses and staring into the middle distance, lips apart. Glamour, here, is a weapon and a power source that Jones embodies with her seemingly unvanquishable gift for movement. In an interview last year with the Financial Times, Smith said that she and Jones, a friend, would commiserate about "trying to make money, trying to survive." She added, "We came out of Jim Crow. And so just coming to New York and…
Yxta Maya Murray
Read full article