Photography by Rikkí Wright

Rikkí Wright’s ethereal portraiture challenge notions of the body and blackness

Based in Los Angeles, CA, photographer and artist Rikkí Wright investigates the ideas of sisterhood and community, particularly among women of colour. She explores the way in which community has the ability to shape or grow conceptions of femininity and masculinity, beauty and strength.

Losing her mother at the age of two Wright grew up with two older sisters who were her closest models to femininity. From her sisters, she learnt the power of having other women to rely on – her lens seeks to capture this power and intimacy. The emotions connected to the absence of her mother were felt with intensity which led to seeking role models for motherhood and femininity. As a child Wright would spend an endless amount of time observing the stances and gestures of women pictured in the family portraits that decorated the walls of her grandmother’s house.

Ethereal result. Black men, women and the artist herself are captured in tones that radiate, are solemn, speak of confidence and vulnerability. She expresses in an interview with i-D, “It is important for me to display the multifacetedness of people of color”.

The ongoing image series SIS documents sisters connecting via smiles and gazes taking its final form in warm hues and Wright’s signature soft focus feel. With sisterhood dear to her heart the series portrays in a deeply personal way. “It wasn’t until I was older that I started to grasp all this – all these layers of our sibling relationship, the good and the bad, the hard and the soft, the love and the fear, and all the ways we we’re doing our best to support each other and grow together despite obstacles. That sparked my interest in exploring other women’s experiences of sisterhood too, and thinking about how these things shape our futures and our lives,” Wright shares with i-D.

She continues by stating, “I believe it is important for women of color to be able to openly share our inner struggles, our interior lives, because by doing that we are able to realize our interconnectedness. There is beauty and healing in seeing something of yourself reflected in another, or seeing a resonance between your life and someone else’s. The experience creates sisterhood.”

Often working in nature her affinity with the natural world is explained through its honesty which she attempts to convey through her images. This is done by leaving images untampered, no physical elements are changed in post and thus it evokes the honesty that is strived for. Work concerns itself with the way in which the environment and the individual mould one another. What is of prevalence to evoke is honesty, authenticity and the truth of lived experience.

Personal influences include Carrie Mae Weems and Lorna Simpson both of whom narrow in on the historical construction of the black female body. “I’m interested in the ways that art can collapse the boundaries between the individual and the community. I’m also interested in creating work that challenges the standard ways that the black female body has been represented and erased in the history of Western art and civilization.”

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