In this series of nine self-portraits, Joy Gregory (born 1959, Oxfordshire, United Kingdom) depicts fragments of her upper body, face and hands, playfully moving in and out of the frame. Through close-up confrontation with the photographic lens, she investigates concepts of beauty, femininity and politics associated with the portrayal of identity.
Gregory said of this work, “Autoportrait was my response to the invisibility, beyond the exotic, of black women in British fashion and beauty images. Among all the self-portraits I’ve made, it’s the only series in which the body alone is its focus. The intention is to conjure up the mood of the catwalk – all fantasy and glamour – a world from which me and my kind had been almost totally excluded. The sub-Saharan black woman of the photographs, with her broad nose, large eyes and lips, is the distant, glamorous figure of unattainable beauty.”
Autograph was founded in 1988 to support black photographic practices, and Joy Gregory's series Autoportrait was the organisation's first artist commission.
Celebrated for her pioneering work on self-identity and auto-portraiture in the late 1980s and early 1990s, Gregory’s intimate engagement with ideas around blackness, femininity, and beauty is epitomised in her seminal series Autoportrait (1989/90). Autograph’s first artist commission, the series was a direct response to the lack of representation of black women within lifestyle consumer magazines.
Her subsequent body of work Objects of Beauty (1992-1995) delved into questions of aesthetics and body politics, combining the Victorian process of kallitypes to capture a range of objects often associated with feminine beauty and constraints of Western fashion industry. Similarly, themed artistic investigations continued with series such as Girl Thing (2000-2005), Cinderella Tours Europe, (1997 – 2001), and Fairest, (1998/2010). Gregory has worked and exhibited widely both in the UK and internationally and participated in numerous biennales and festivals over the years, including the 2017 Venice Biennale where her work was represented in the off-site Diaspora Pavilion. Recent works include Overlooked and Underreported (2017), Coloured Girls (2018), Home (2018), The World is a Handkerchief (2019) and Barbie at Sixty (2019-20). Alongside the continuation of a long-term project in the Kalahari and several collaborative projects in development, Gregory has recently completed a commission for the Black Cultural Archives Breaking Barriers (2019-20). Her work is represented in the collections of Autograph, London; Victoria and Albert Museum, London; Arts Council Collection, UK; The Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane, Australia; and Yale British Art Collection, USA.
You can follow Gregory on Instagram, and see more work on her website.
Autograph is a place to see things differently. Since 1988, we have championed photography that explores issues of race, identity, representation, human rights and social justice, sharing how photographs reflect lived experiences and shape our understanding of ourselves and others.Donate Join our mailing list