Someday, when we think back on summer 2020, two things will likely remain standout in our minds. The first is the pandemic, which touched and took so many lives, at the same time separating us from many people and routines that could have provided comfort. The second is the police killings of Black Americans, and the protests against racism that blazed across the country in their wake.
But while the massive cultural disruption and reckoning will make the history books, what is less documented—yet immeasurably important—are the ways people made it through, finding moments of quiet and serenity in the eye of the storm. We asked 12 Black photographers to share what self-care has meant to them these past few months. Here’s what came through the lens.
“Self-portraiture is very intimate to me, and in itself an act of self-care. Moments in nature give me the most calm, whether it’s at the beach, a park, or my windowsill with a notebook and music. I grow the most, spiritually, when I take adequate time to feel my emotions, have my alone time, and practice art.” For more of Sandford’s work, follow along at @ohmakeda.
“This visual of a beautiful Black woman basking in the sun, looking effortlessly stunning, represents me and all the other Black girls choosing joy and self-love. We become radiant. Self-care is the root of my glow, my confidence, my outlook on life, and my loving energy. My own self-care practice is how I affirm the belief that I matter and deserve to experience beauty.” For more of Ivory’s work, follow along at @deunivory.
“My self-care is rooted to my sense of community. This past month, I learned how to cook biscuits with my mother and heard stories about how talented a baker my grandma was—that time together brought my spirit the most calm and joy.
One question that has pre-occupied me during this period of slowing down, though: Why do we need a reminder to care for ourselves in the first place? My ancestors were so consumed with fighting for our rights that they didn’t have that opportunity. Right now, I am inspired by The Nap Ministry, an organizing platform that prioritizes rest as resistance.” For more of Tucker’s work, follow along at @stolengfsclub.
“In the midst of all this, it’s been important for me to protect my personal peace and sanity. Self-care is about about more than just putting on a face mask or painting your nails. It’s about nurturing the mind, staying inspired, and learning more about myself so I can be a better person for everyone around me. That said, sometimes a face mask helps, too!” For more of Faciane’s work, follow along at @finessabuxtable.
“What has really brought me joy and peace these past few months are my plants. To be able to nourish something and watch it grow despite everything going on in the world is such a beautiful act of love and resilience. I can water my plants despite what today’s news says. I can fertilize them. I can rotate them so they get the best sunlight. I can care for them in a way that makes me feel fulfilled—and helps them continue to thrive.” For more of Myrick’s work, follow along at @chasingdenisse.
Myesha Evon Gardner
“When I think of self care, I think of all the tender moments that make the small things count. Whether it’s cooking a delicious meal, sitting in the grass at the park, or making your bed: Self-care is embracing those rituals. This image resembles and reflects the everyday intimate routines and rituals in my family home. My great uncle picks out my great grandfather’s hair while my grandfather prepares him breakfast. This moment was so special for me to document. I’m so grateful to have four generations of Black men still present in my life.” For more of Gardner’s work, follow along at @myeshaevongardner.
“The little things that mean a lot to me right now are hot showers, walks in nature for social distance exercise, listening to my favorite music, and using CBD. But even though these ‘treats’ are helpful, the real self-care is when you’re focused on inner work, on unlearning and evolving. Like many people, this year has given me a lot to think about and more time to understand myself. It’s been a hard journey but a very necessary one. I’m still on it, every day.” For more of Woods’ work, follow along at @_portraitmami.
“Self-care is treating yourself to a dessert, watching a movie, or enjoying a spa day just because. But it also means allowing yourself moments of reflection and solitude, and taking the time to be present and grateful. As a photographer, it’s very rare that I have the opportunity to be captured. Standing on the other side of the lens usually makes me self-conscious, critical, and uncomfortable. But this portrait represents a rare moment when I could just be.” For more of Keanes’ work, follow along at @visualsbyk.
“I’ve come to really appreciate rewarding myself in ways that I never did before: buying a fresh bouquet of flowers, draping myself in my jewelry and perfume even on days I stay home, partaking in therapy and weekly journaling, and engaging with books by authors who speak to me.” For more of Mambo’s work, follow along at @makenamambo.
“For me, self-care means slowing down, checking in with myself, and sitting with uncomfortable feelings. It means asking myself what I need and honoring those needs without guilt. It’s a hard thing to do because it takes a lot of work to feel like you are worthy of caring for yourself before others. It’s also a radical gift that my Black female ancestors weren’t given the chance to indulge in. I’m grateful to be able to do so myself.
As a Black woman, I’ve had a difficult time reflecting on my feelings this year. So for me, this image represents the act of looking deeply at myself: I used my camera to document and archive who I am right now, in a moment that will surely go down in history.” For more of Mambo’s work, follow along at @akeabrionne.
“My most serene moments have been the most mundane: roller blading with friends, watching the sunset, night car rides with no destination and loud music. Transplanting an eggplant into soil. Simple things have brought so much joy this year. For that, I am thankful.” For more of Marisa’s work, follow along at @dashaunaemarisa.
“This year, I started a self-portrait project because it allowed me to still do what I love, during a time when we weren’t allowed to go outside or live our lives the way we normally would. Because I wasn’t able to collaborate with others due to the virus, I turned the lens on myself so I would still have a space to create and find joy—no matter what else is happening in the world.” For more of Ekpoh’s work, follow along at @ohyeahitsidy.