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  • Writer's pictureSam Thousand

Obsidian's Next Move with The Next Gen

Updated: May 28

In 2024, The Obsidian Collection is making an effort to represent a dynamic age range of the Black community to include images of younger faces and put an emphasis on the digitization of highlighting of current photographers who are making history today. 


On Mar 26th, 2024, we initialized these efforts with a mixer and conversation with current Chicago photographers along with professionals who are in adjacent industries (hair/makeup, model, fashion design, editing). The experience started at the door where guests were checked in and greeted with a branded party favor. As the decorative room (imbued with eclectic portraits, Black art, and comfy seats) opened up from the entrance, guests approached a portrait apparatus I created that featured a photo submitted by each photographer in attendance. If the entering guest was a contributing photographer, we celebrated them by requesting a signature on their photograph. Included in the experience was soul food, libations, and live music led by Hammond Keyboardist, Justin Dillard.


After everyone settled in with live music, libations and conversation, we had a wonderful discussion about: the entrepreneurial lifestyle of being a photographer in Chicago; what community looks like; what spaces are needed to support and improve the local industry; and what the future looks like for authentic Black photography and storytelling. A notable takeaway from the conversation was the lack of communal gathering spaces for those in the photography sector and adjacent industries to share their art, network, and truly collaborate. Just as Obsidian was grateful for the space held to have this moment of discussion, we learned that all attendees were inspired by the conversation and were anticipating the positive impact the forthcoming “Obsidian House” movement is bringing. 


Now, back to this beautiful Black photo display I created…when first conceiving this event idea, I knew I wanted to feature physical photographs of the creatives in attendance. The intention for this display was to not only celebrate the photographers in the room, but to be a conversation piece to where photographers would not only meet other creatives in their community, but see a glimpse of the other’s work as well. I initially saw this display as a board of sorts (white board, cork board), where each photograph would be a part of the collage.

As an interactive piece, I wanted to document each photographer signing their work as a means of celebration. However, when I imagined the photographers signing, I realized that a board may not be the best medium because of the varying heights of people. So I pivoted my approach and thought of creating an apparatus with black string and hanging black wooden panels to display the photos so that signing would be more accessible. This worked out perfectly! Each photograph was highlighted as the photographers introduced themselves in the beginning of the conversation. At the end of our discussion, we saluted all of the photographers who contributed and they were asked to claim their photo and make a decision if they were going to keep it or trade with another photographer. 

This event was held at C47 Work and Experiment Lounge, located in Little Black Pearl, and guests experienced an intimate, upscale vibe that was creative and comforting. This event was one of many social gatherings we will continue to have in the spirit of the fellowship. Whenever we gather we are of Obsidian House.

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