By Madelaine Church | OBSERVER Staff Writer
The golden sun hung high, casting its warm glow upon nearly 70 Black artists in downtown Sacramento on July 29. Poets, photographers, musicians, actors, writers, painters and other artists in different mediums came together to celebrate their existence.
The founder and director of Black Artist Foundry Faith J. McKinnie and the creative director and founder of Nine Sixteen Luxuries This Is Sac, Dev Anglin, organized PROOf. The photo shoot was a celebration, validation and confirmation of Black artists in Sacramento.
Inspired by the historical photograph “The Great Day in Harlem” by freelance photographer Art Kane, PROOf’s main objective is to bring people together. According to The Guardian, 57 jazz musicians gathered between Fifth and Madison avenues in Harlem, New York to have their photo taken.
The last photograph taken for PROOf was in 2010. This summer, Anglin and McKinnie collaborated to make this year’s shoot possible. The photoshoot took place in front of the SAFE Credit Union Performing Arts Center, a space recognized locally as a hub for arts, theater and creativity.
Anglin developed a passion for photography at 16 when he realized he didn’t have many photographs of friends and family, especially those who had passed away. At 19, he started taking more photographs, mostly of friends, using film and disposable cameras and created collages highlighting his life and times with them.
Now 36, Anglin works in fashion, marketing and visual production. For PROOf he directed and photographed the shoot of Black artists from all disciplines. Anglin said he felt present, grateful, and alive taking these photographs. He believes Sacramento is unique, but a place where many residents are subconsciously overlooked.
Anglin recognizes the importance of PROOf because it will capture these modern artists and preserve them in his photographs.
“This will live on in the digital world and physical world,” Anglin said.
The photo shoot, designed for Black artists, curators and historians, was open to the public but participants were required to register online. More than 60 participated.
McKinnie compared the number of people in the photo to the famous photograph from 1957. “As an art historian, I am always thinking of the future,” McKinnie said. “We’re not going to be here for long. What we leave behind is our legacy.”
She said the group photo is crucial for the Black art scene in Sacramento. Black art has played a role in preserving and transmitting Black culture, identity and history. It also gives inspiration to aspiring Black artists in an art scene often dominated by white males. An article by The Guardian reports that artifacts made by white men take up 75% of space at major art museums.
Black figures too often are absent from art history and that makes many Black artists today feel invisible and alone. PROOf was a great opportunity for these artists to connect.
Taylor Pannell was among them. He wanted to be an artist since age 7 and lives his dream as owner of an art studio in downtown Sacramento. In September, Pannell revealed he identifies as trans.
Pannell said attending PROOf exceeded his expectations. When he arrived he only knew a handful of people but loved the energy from the group.
“It is beautiful to be part of a Black photo shoot and to be accepted,” Pannell said.
Anglin’s photographs captured a moment. But they also will reassure inspiring artists in future generations that Black artists were present in Sacramento.
“We’re here, we’re active, we’re a community and we support each other,” McKinnie said.
Jaya King, a Sacramento paint muralist, attended at McKinnie’s invitation. She said PROOf was something that couldn’t be missed.
“It feels historic and that is immortalized for future generations to look back on,” King said.
Gerry Simpson is good friends with McKinnie, well acquainted with Anglin and has been a fixture for nearly 25 years in Sacramento’s Black art scene. McKinnie invited him to PROOf, where he was amazed to see so many participants.
“There is a future for art and creativity here in Sacramento,” Simpson said. “It won’t die with the elders.”