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Shawn Theodore

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Shawn Theodore moves across multiple stylistic continua — fine art, commercial, portraiture, and formerly, almost exclusively street photography, Theodore’s work is defiant in its nuance, depth, and meaning. His vision is influenced by photographers Roy DeCarava, Jamel Shabazz, and Dawoud Bey, and by additional visual artists artists Kerry James Marshall, and Terry Adkins. Theodore endeavors to see Blackness, the spirituality and ether of it, hidden in plain sight. Bucking traditional photographic formalism, Theodore's improvisational style artfully blends Romanticism, commercial appeal, and studio technique to achieve his trademark style of fine art photography. This personal aesthetic orthodoxy is rooted in what he has coined as ‘Afromythology’ (his not-so-subtle rebuttal to Afrofutristic aesthetic values), and serves as a continual affirmation for those who, while oft-overlooked, are in no way unsure of their own agency within the context of ever-changing historically accurate, and vividly imagined, archives of the Black American traditions that predate Blackness as an American Invention. His subject matter has evolved from tough-yet-tender youngsters and the effortless élan of church-going folk contrasted with the high note of sharply dressed hustlers to stylishly crafted haints and saints who break ideas of human-to-spirit connectivity beyond one-dimensional, transactional worship modes, and distanced from monolithic, easily stereotyped images to depict Blackness as irrefutable, dynamic ‘soul.' This is evident when confronted by the majesty of his subjects, who rest within the scenes of his collective Afromythology series: Church of Broken Pieces, Future Antebellum, The Fruit of Comets, and The Sisters of Cypress are unique expressions of his connection to contemporary, critical issues that dethrone and decolonizing the art and act of photography.

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