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Established in 2013, this critically acclaimed international conference series of scholars, artists and activists inspired and has supported the SHINE Portrait Studio project. If you’re part of the Black Portraiture[s] conversation, and happen to be in or coming through the region, please make SHINE @ Express Newark a destination, we’d love to make your complimentary portrait.

Christina Knight earned her Ph.D. in African American Studies with a primary field in History of Art and Architecture from Harvard University. She is currently an Assistant Professor of Visual Studies at Haverford College.  Before joining the Haverford faculty, she was a Consortium for Faculty Diversity Postdoctoral Fellow at Bowdoin College as well as a Ford Foundation Diversity Fellow. Knight’s work examines the connection between embodied practices and identity, the relationship between race and the visual field, and the queer imaginary. Her current book project focuses on representations of the Middle Passage in contemporary American visual art and performance.

Jessi Knight is a dancer, teacher, and choreographer from Pittsboro, N.C. After graduating from Duke University with a self-designed dance degree emphasizing music and education, Jessi embarked on a teaching and choreographing career that has afforded her the opportunity to teach and perform both nationally and internationally.  After spending four years in Denver, Colorado as a member of the internationally acclaimed Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Ensemble, she moved back to her home state of North Carolina where she continues to teach, choreograph, and perform on a project by project basis for her company knightworks dance theater.

“Jessi and I only get to see each other a few times a year, and when we do, we are usually in the middle of making something or performing. Getting our portraits taken at SHINE was a rare chance to slow down and be present in a different way. Anthony asked us questions about our lives and work, which made the session feel easy and fluid. The images capture the joy of that dialogue and our happiness at being together in Newark.”   


We had the pleasure of photographing Christina and Jessi on the occasion of their featured lecture-performance at Black Portraiture[s] VII: Play and Performance Conference at Express Newark. Their presentation Play at the End of the World incorporated original film, dance, spoken word, portraiture, community building and ritual. Christina and Jessi live in different states so we had a rare opportunity to photograph them together, and I think Anthony captured their joy of being close. We’re also excited about doomsday, their black feminist church project and the potential of publishing an artists’ book in our Plume House of Prayer series!

© Shine Portrait Studio (Anthony Alvarez/Nick Kline)

Courtney R. Baker, Ph.D.,
Author, Educator, Critic

Associate Professor | Department of English
University of California, Riverside
College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences

“It is so exciting and humbling to be in this process. The portrait session was a magical experience of seeing myself in ways I never had. It was very powerful to learn through feeling how I inhabit the world as a visual subject.”

Our inaugural collaboration on this series of photographs started with Courtney on June 16, 2021. Thank you to Cheryl Finely and Deborah Willis for recommending that Courtney contact us while visiting with her family in NJ! As it happened Courtney was also doing a writers retreat at Eaton’s Nook, here in Newark. We initially met on zoom with Courtney to discuss ideas for the session, so she arrived with several wardrobes, and carefully selected jewelry. We had fun for about 4 hours finding the right music for relaxing, posing, choosing backgrounds, lighting, and also talking about history, theory and the lack of diverse faculty in higher education. We are so grateful to have had the time with Courtney and look forward to her return to SHINE so we can make more portraits and keep the visual conversation going!


© Shine Portrait Studio (Anthony Alvarez/Nick Kline)

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