Vanessa Charlot

Vanessa Charlot is a Haitian-American documentary photographer and lecturer working in Miami, FL and St. Louis, MO. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature and Sociology from Florida Atlantic University. Having travelled throughout the U.S., Caribbean and Southeast Asia, her work focuses on communities of color. Vanessa shoots primarily in black and white to explore the immutability of the collective human experience and disrupt compositional hierarchy. Her work focuses on the intersectionality of spirituality, socio-economic issues and sexual/gender expression within marginalized communities. The purpose of her work is to produce visual representations of varied human existences that are free of an oppressive gaze.

Vanessa’s photographs have been published in New York Times, Oprah Magazine, Vogue, The New Yorker, Rolling Stone, The Atlantic, New York Magazine, The Guardian, Artnet News, Buzzfeed and other publications.

Vanessa Charlot was selected for her work, “Black Woman’s Shadow,” exploring the psyche of a Black woman as she grapples with oppression, trauma, and the anguish of her experience. “In America, she lives in a perpetual state of trauma. To survive, she moves performatively through life,” Charlot elaborates. “She symbolizes an American norm—grieving, coping and healing in the shadows. The cycle of trauma, anguish, pain, isolation and loneliness is harrowing and relentless. Nothing about this struggle is new for her. This shadowy figure has always been kin to Black women. The project poses the question: how do Black women cope with the alienation and anguish of their experience? This photo series gives a raw and intimate view into the psyche of a Black woman as she grapples with this trauma.

“As a Black woman documentary photographer, I am interested in photographing how Black women survive and thrive, in the face of systematic oppression, through a documentary approach. Black trauma is often on display for the world to see, but expressions of Black grief and psychological anguish are normally hidden from public view. The Black women photographed for this project symbolize the impact of this trauma to one’s psyche– haunted by the constant violence against Black bodies. This project will peel back the layers of the Black woman’s experience and create the space for her and/others to view, frame, and contextualize the mental impact of this trauma. It provides a visual representation to remind each Black woman to create the space to feel and think deeply about herself and what her life means, and more broadly, about her position within American society.

“This project gives an intimate view into the psyche of Black women, navigating their inner worlds and private spaces, to cope with the relentless barrage of racial and gender-based trauma in America. While being the symbolic hope for Black America, she still carries a great burden–to love a country that does not love her back.”

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