Jewels from the Hinterland

text and photos by Naima Green

When I reflect on how black people have been represented through photographs, a recurring idea comes to mind. I recall Gordon Park’s “A Harlem Family” and Bruce Davidson’s “East 100th Street”. Audiences are comfortable seeing brown faces this way. Parks and Davidson captured images of their time, beautiful and haunting images of what it meant to be in Harlem in the late 1960s. But these images of black people in desolate, concrete spaces can suggest decay.

In Jewels from the Hinterland, I’ve made — and, as part of the ongoing project, I’m continuing to make — portraits of friends outdoors in New York City, where figures anchor fields clear-cut with geometric lines and vibrant colors. As nature grows around the individuals, so too does the city landscape, like an ever-evolving grid. In these photographs are city dwellers who identify with natural green spaces, regions that black urbanites are not expected to inhabit. Our hinterlands.

Natalie, Riverside Park

Lucia, Dumbo

Aja, Alphabet City

Dre, Greenpoint

Sade, Harlem

Suhaly, Two Bridges

Arvy, Kent

Desiree, Prospect Park

Nedjra, Brooklyn Botanical Garden

Josie, Central Park North

Naima Green is an award-winning photographer, artist, and art educator. She has contributed to The Atlantic, City Atlas: New York, Harper’s Bazaar, and Interni Magazine.

Also in this issue

A Close Call, and Then a Curtain Call

How a decades-old play helped save a Bed-Stuy hospital. By Elizabeth Flock

Q&A: Morgan Rogers of Edible Schoolyard NYC

At a public school in Gravesend, the kids grow their own lunch. By Anneliese Cooper and Christine Sanders.