Creating The Black Queer Tarot
Photography by Yinka Parris
The photo shoots were the part I worried about most. I put up a few flyers on social media looking for muses and scheduled those in 30-minute intervals. Fall of 2020, I began photographing about 5 to 7 people a day in my studio in Harlem. The process of photographing people was very intimate. The way I photograph, I like to capture the moment in--between the moment. I love action shots. It makes the completed collages look like a still from a film to me.
I would talk to the muses while I photographed them. I asked them about their life, their fears, who they're dating, what they're working on, their sun, moon, and rising signs. I got a great sense of their energy and a lot of that played into the cards they were picked to portray. Now that the images are out, so many of the muses have looked up the meaning of each card and pointed out to me how eerily accurate it is to their personalities; and I'm just like... kismet!
The shoots managed to add context to each of the cards when I began the artworks. I don’t think I would have gotten the insight I needed to complete this project if I hadn’t taken the portraits myself and just had people submit photos.
I was adamant about the cards being representative of a wide range of Black queer people. I wanted as many Black queer people as possible to be able to see themselves in this work. That means representing as many body types, life experiences, sexualities, genders and skin tones as I could. I wanted all of the bases to be covered without it seeming like anyone was being tokenized.
With the poses, I aimed for them to look beautiful and desirable, but I was also adamant about them looking like they have agency in the visual situation presented. I wanted them all to exude some form of glamour or grace. I think control is something we’re all striving for in our own way. As Black queer people, we're constantly having things thrust upon us from outside sources, so I see tarot and other spiritual practices as ways to take back some of that power. And it can be transformative. All the people that I photographed picked up on that. So even when they were shy at first, they understood that they had to open up for the process to happen.