Arielle Bobb-Willis, New Jersey, 2017.
When Arielle Bobb-Willis, a New Yorker, moved to South Carolina in 2008, she suddenly found herself deep in an existential depression that lasted for five, Sartre-filled years. All that changed, though, after her history teacher saw how much she perked up in photography class and gave her her first film camera, which rendered the bedroom she’d only known as gray in an orange-y yellow, and slowly but surely started to change her perspective. Now 23 and back in New York, Bobb-Willis specializes in portraits of contorted figures in brightly colored garments, which are quite intentionally a metaphor for the “super super uncomfortable positions” she’s been in: “The most important thing that I want people to take from my work is that good things come from bad times.”
Michael Bailey-Gates, image 1, 2017.
You may know him from the runways of shows like Eckhaus Latta, but Michael Bailey-Gates has been posting his photos online long before he signed to Ford Models, since he was just 13. Now 24, Bailey-Gates has lately stood out for his flair for daring and transformative self-portraits, which often prominently feature his remote control timer. (He’s in fact been taking photos of himself since he was a kid, though it’s likely those after-school snapshots didn’t involve posing pantsless underwater or dangling from a rope held up by Jane Moseley.)
D’Angelo Lovell Williams, Face Down, Ass Up, 2017. Courtesy of D’Angelo Lovell Williams and Higher Pictures
D’Angelo Lovell Williams is currently finishing up his MFA in photography at Syracuse University, but the 25-year-old is already responsible for what the critic Roberta Smith called “one of the year’s best gallery debuts” last year. His series of self-portraits, like the photo of Williams with a gun in his mouth that first caught the eye of the New York gallery Higher Pictures, exhibit an unabashed, confrontational intimacy while raising issues of desire, particularly when it comes to black figures, as well as the stigmas Williams has personally experienced as a black, gay man. “When I made Face Down, Ass Up,” the artist, who’s from Mississippi, said of the image above, “it was about me wanting to reinterpret what happened to me, painless and natural, but in a beautiful way. The larger picture is that there is so much that needs to be de-stigmatized.”