It's not uncommon for people to learn about femininity and the type of woman they want to become through their mothers. Observing your mother and how she navigates the world can be a powerful learning experience. For me, that experience was very unique. My mom passed away when I was 10, just days before my 5th-grade graduation. Through much of my adolescence, I felt robbed of this mother-daughter experience and disconnected from her. Then I discovered my mother's enchanting modeling archive, and for the first time I saw a Black woman depicted as way more than the stereotypes placed among us. I saw my mother depicted as the queen that she truly is, and from that day on the young Queen inside me began to blossom. As I dove deeper into my mother's archive, I began to truly step into my unique power.
Culture is like the fabric of a family, woven together through shared experiences, traditions, and values. However, for many young Black women like myself, their cultural fabric has been corrupted by the media, which has become a dominant force in shaping their worldview. From early cinema to modern-day social media, Black people are constantly bombarded with images of tragedy, violence, and oppression. While it is important to highlight the struggles in the African American experience, an excess of this can be counterproductive. It can create a distorted image of one’s sense of self and their place in the world and often limit their foreseen potential. This is why it is crucial to challenge the harmful narratives that are perpetuated by the media and instead showcase the beauty of Blackness in all its forms. In this body of work, I wish to transport the viewers out of this tragic reality and into another realm that is free of the collective entrapment in White mythologies, and where their wildest dreams and desires are tangible.
The combination of tulle and cowrie shells in the images are used to create powerful and evocative symbols of maternal connection and femininity. Cowrie shells, which have long been associated with fertility, femininity, and protection in many cultures, are used to complement the idea of the tulle with soft and translucent qualities as a representation of the womb. This is meant to suggest that the subjects are being protected and nurtured in a safe and sacred space. Using these layered symbols, I invite viewers to contemplate the importance of taking action in their own lives and communities to protect and empower Black women. By creating this body of work, I seek to honor Black women and create a new cultural fabric that empowers them to embrace their unique identities and allows them to see themselves as the powerful and beautiful beings that they truly are. By doing so, we can ensure that the next generation of Black women are equipped with the knowledge and strength to thrive in a world that too often seeks to hold them back. This work can serve as a source of inspiration and motivation for young women who may be struggling to find their place in a world that too often diminishes the value of Blackness.
Heather Lynch is a photographer and filmmaker born and raised in New York City. She has always been passionate about using her camera to empower those around her and deeply understands the complexities of beauty and representation. As a first-generation Trinidadian American living in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn, Heather draws from her own experiences to honor her subjects using her sacred lens to create a space where they are free of stereotypes and can create their own identities. She is committed to shifting the misrepresentation of marginalized communities, starting with those in her community. Her work is characterized by a deep empathy for her subjects and a commitment to representing them in a way that is authentic and empowering.