The new issue of Loose Associations on Dandyism and Black Masculinity

Image: Loose Associations vol. 2 issue 3, designed by Sarah Boris.

Loose Associations is a quarterly publication from The Photographers’ Gallery offering a diverse set of reflections on photography and image culture. Loosely inspired by the gallery’s exhibition programme, the publication includes visual and text-based essays, artist pages, images, interviews, fictions and philosophies from a wide range of contributors.  

This issue focuses on the performative and political use of dress in black culture. More specifically, how the adoption of a flamboyant or dandyesque style can be seen as a statement and strategy for (re)defining black masculinity and for asserting a provocative and fluid visibility that runs against common stereotypes.

Our point of departure is the exhibition, Made You Look: Dandyism and Black Masculinity, presented at The Photographers’ Gallery during the summer of 2016. Curated by writer and broadcaster Ekow Eshun, with TPG curator Karen McQuaid, it examines the position of the black dandy through the photographic work of a diverse group of artists and across a range of timeframes and territories: geographical, historical, social.

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The dictionary definition of a dandy is ‘a man unduly concerned with looking stylish and fashionable’. In this sense it feels a pejorative term, and echoes a wider perception that such emphasis on how you look indicates both vanity and superficiality. Yet the images in the exhibition and the reflections collected here propose a different interpretation or reading; one that places the embrace of flamboyant dress within a lineage of protest and transgression.

Through words and images – music, theory, fiction, the polemical gesture and the simple list – the curators, artists, philosophers, writers, stylists and gallery staff who have generously contributed to this publication debunk the myth of the dandy as style over substance and reflect instead on the position of the black man today. As in the past, there is a need to repurpose language – sartorial, visual, verbal – in order to transform invisibility into visibility and absence into presence.

The publication is available online and at the gallery. All profits from the publication go to support our programme.

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