Image from 'Whatever You Like' by Nydia Blas

Using allegory as a conceptual and visual device with photographer Nydia Blas

Artist Nydia Blas uses photography, collage, books and video in her exploration of lived experience, history and the limits of social constructs – specifically from her point of view as a Black woman and mother. Her work also touches on unpacking sexuality as well as understandings and expressions of intimacy.

Using allegory as a conceptual and visual device in her photography, Blas webs together signifiers and articulations of value, power and circumstance through the Black feminine lens. She presents counter narratives, destabilizing stereotypes, and her work becomes testimonies of alternative spaces and identities created by the people she photographs. In doing so she delicately maps out the relationship between resilience and resistance.

She is a recipient of the 2018 Light Work Grant, a photography program that supports artists working in Central New York. Her work is also featured in the book MFON: A Journal of Women Photographers of the African Diaspora, a commemorative publication that is committed to representing a collective voice of women photographers of African descent with the inaugural issue featuring 100 women photographers across the African diaspora.

Her series The Girls Who Spun Gold was inspired by a number of factors, the most prominent being a group of women she met while working at a community centre before embarking on her MFA degree. Blas feels that their meeting was a serendipitous moment, as at the time she had just become a single mother of two children, and the women she met were at the age when Blas last remembers feeling a child. The decision to photograph these women came from the desire to maintain a connection, but soon into the process she felt the need to include herself in the series. “The result is a series of images that work to complicate the notion of what it means to be a girl, a teenager, and a mother. I want the subjects to reclaim themselves, for themselves. I want the images to speak to this intricate process that is painful, messy, beautiful, joyful, etc,” Blas expressed in an interview with Strange Fire Collective.

Her latest series, Whatever You Like, sees Blas capture the people she photographs with an honesty that makes the viewer feel connected to each person. The work aims to unfold the ways that young women of colour learn to reclaim themselves for their own gratification, attempting to undo seeing themselves through the eyes of others. The simplicity of the images creates the feeling that these are moments of reflective self engagement that Blas was invited to monumentalize.

Through the above mentioned series one can see how Blas takes on moments of transition, learning and reclaiming, allowing the people she photographs to take ownership of the image through their strong presence.

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