Early Works

Modeling Mary, June 1980


For my 11th birthday my father gave me a Polaroid One-Step camera. This was my first camera and advertisements featuring James Garner and Mariette Hartley toted it as fun and easy-to-use—you simply pushed a button and out came a stunning color photograph. Shortly after I received the camera, my friend Mary and I played "fashion photo shoot" for the day and "Modeling Mary" was created.

When I look at the photos we took, I don't recall the specifics of the day, but my mind's eye remembers how we were navigating through early adolescence together. I see the times at the local department store where a security guard would track our every move if we were together, but never if I was alone. I recall my mother telling me Mary was no longer allowed in our house if she wasn't home because money was missing from her dresser drawer. I remember the looks Mary received as we walked down the street—she represented the less than one-percent of African Americans in our town. I think of Mary's older brother saying it was okay for him to call me "honkie," and he did.

The day I took this photo wasn't about the differences of our skin, it was about wanting to be more than the awkward girls we were. We were just two girls with a camera and a rose, taking photographs and being beautiful.