Meet Micaiah Carter
Pharrell. Normani. Naomi Osaka. These are just a few of the bold-faced names photographer and filmmaker Micaiah Carter has photographed for publications like Vogue, Town & Country, and The New York Times. But for his latest creative endeavor, the Brooklyn- and L.A.-based artist turned to muses much closer to home—his family.
Carter’s new exhibition, American Black Beauty Vol. 1, is now on display at the Seaport’s not-for-profit gallery, SN37. The show brings together some of Carter’s work in the fashion industry and more personal images of his family, as well as archival ephemera from his late father, whose passing in 2021 set off a unique creative response for Carter.
In honor of his father, who was a Vietnam War veteran, Carter made the decision that proceeds from the sale of works in American Black Beauty Vol. 1 will be donated to Agent Orange Record, to advocate and provide support for Vietnam Veterans and others impacted by Agent Orange and similar toxic herbicides.
Working for international brands and media, Carter has become known for his beautiful imagery of Black men and women — and he is a founder of See in Black, an artist collective highlighting and supporting the advancement of Black photographers. For American Black Beauty, Vol. 1, Carter turned the lens on young members of his own family, juxtaposing them with high fashion images to make a point about beauty and representation. Here, Carter talks about the inspiration and creative steps that led him to this heartfelt exhibition.
What do the words American Black Beauty mean to you?
American Black Beauty means a sense of home.
American Black Beauty Vol. 1 showcases photos of young family members alongside high fashion images—is this the first time you’ve included family in your work like this?
Yes, I usually haven’t had my family in my work, so this was a great chance to connect and create with them in this body of work. It was great to have everyone together in one space. I’m a big fan of community, so I would love to explore this again.
How did you come to this creative decision?
A night of brainstorming led me to American Black Beauty Vol. 1. When looking online, there was a lack of representation for this, which triggered the work.
How do you think seeing this combination of images will resonate with young people like your niece?
I think they will see themselves! First and foremost, I’m excited about how they will take this inspiration and use it for their own life.
Why did you choose to include the home videos that are part of this exhibition?
The home videos are used as a foundation for everything but also to show the similarities between a lot of American Black lives.
Your late father was a big supporter of your work. How would you describe his archival photographs that are included in American Black Beauty Vol. 1?
They are an honor to him and his life, his journey. I’m so proud of him and wanted to showcase his accomplishments.
How has the process of creating this exhibition affected or changed you, both personally and professionally?
It has let me breathe a little more. It’s given me the okay to take time for personal work and really given me a unique way to grieve.
How has your idea of beauty evolved over the years?
It’s evolved by seeing more of a need for full representation, and taking space in that.
What’s next for Micaiah Carter?
Rest—and American Black Beauty Vol. 2!
American Black Beauty Vol. 1 is on show at The SN37 Gallery, 204 Front St, through March 27, 2022.