We first came across Tia Thompson's photography – primarily black and white, and largely documentary – in the #aCreativeDC feed, and we can't get enough of her neighborhood-centric, people-focused city perspective: "My portraiture and documentary, here in the District, shows a spectrum of black life and the black experience in one of the blackest cities in the United States." We're so glad to share a selection of her portfolio – more of Tia's work can be seen on her website, TiaThompson.me, and Instagram: @t.squares.
How long have you lived in the city? I’ve been visiting Washington, D.C. since I was a kid. I have an older brother that has lived here almost 20 years. I moved here in 2009. It has been a second home for me. Coming from a small, beach town of about 40,000 people to a bustling city such as D.C. was very intriguing. D.C. provided my first experience of a vibrant city where black people thrived. Street artists, business folks, politics, service industry: we were here working and living. The city was colorful with all kinds of people. Chocolate city left a formidable imprint of what was possible for black culture beyond what I saw coming from a small, southern beach town in the South.
How long have you been shooting? I’ve been shooting for about 4 years. A turning point happened in my life that forced a space where I only had my art. From that point on, which was almost two years ago, I’ve been putting in work.
We love the predominantly black and white imagery of your work – but what's in color is gorgeous, too. Can you talk about that element? My portraiture and documentary, here in the District, shows a spectrum of black life and the black experience in one of the blackest cities in the United States. Shooting in black and white provides stark contrasts; the faces and scenes are flat with open interpretation for the audience. The images are raw with texture. Black and white allows the story to be told by the subjects, not the photographer. It creates a gaze that’s centered around the subjects. Subjects are authentically “seen” and not just viewed. In my documentary work, black and white operates as a conduit that allows the audience to directly connect with the subjects where they are. The audience sees the subjects for who they are without the influences that color brings. If you look closely, my subjects’ eyes will tell you exactly who they are.
For me, color creates an engagement with feelings and energy. Shooting in color was intentional in the storytelling. There were some scenes and faces that had to be told in hues and colors. The emotional energy stood out and i wanted to tell that in color. I wanted the audience to feel that energy immediately. Those images tend to evoke warmth and love. I wanted to capture the richness of their skin tones. I chose color because their skin tones told stories that couldn’t be captured in black and white.