Scheherazade Tillet is a photographer, curator, and feminist activist who explores the themes of trauma, healing, pleasure, and play. Blending photojournalism, documentary style, archive and autobiography, and a collaborative social engaged practice, Scheherazade photographs those liminal spaces - "the betwixt and between" - shaped by her itinerant black girlhood in order to capture instances in which black freedom dreams are achieved, even if just for a moment, and acts as a blueprints for our collective futures.
Born in Boston, growing up in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad and Newark, NJ, and now working in Chicago, Scheherazade actively embeds herself in the communities with whom she collaborates as well as empowers her subjects by encouraging them to photograph themselves or help shape her gaze. Currently, Scheherazade is the inaugural artist in residence for “Pictures and Progress,” a joint initiative between Shine Portrait Studio and New Arts Justice. Her first solo show “Let Her Be Born & Handled Warmly: A Retrospective on Black GirlHood” to be exhibited in Newark in Spring 2021.
All images from the series below are Archival Pigment Prints, Dimensions Variable
Sites Of My Childhood
Misty Eyed: Sites Of My Childhood revisits sites of Scheherazade's itinerant childhood here in Newark, NJ and is influenced by her travels in Boston, Chicago, and Trinidad.
This gallery will be updated in the spring of 2020.
A Rite of Passage for Black Girls
2018 - 2020
This new body of photographic work documents how African-American girls in Chicago celebrate the dynamism of their identities and the communities from which they come. The event much like a quinceañeras are for Latinx communities, “the prom send-off” is a complex, year-long rite of passage for black girls, their friends, and families that renders proms as more than a party or fashion statement. Through this ritual, proms are communal spaces of self-expression, inimitable style, and coming into adulthood.
My Family Chair
2018 - 2020
Scheherazade Tillet takes up Huey Newton’s 1967 iconic image while also re-staging and updating this familiar object from her childhood home -- the wicker chair -- with African-American teen girls. Featuring prom dress and wedding dress materials as the backdrop, this series features girls and young women from Tillet’s A Long Walk Home’s Girl/Friends Leadership Institute which empowers black girls from Chicago to use art to advocate for themselves, other girls, and for racial and gender justice in their schools, communities, and beyond.
Little Girl Blue: A Sojourn to Nina Simone's Childhood Home
In August 2018 photographer Scheherazade Tillet visited the childhood home of Nina Simone in Tryon, North Carolina. Consistent with Tillet’s own practice as an artist-activist, she has literally gone to the roots seeking clues for Simone’s spirit and genius. Her photographs are a visual reimagining of Simone as a child in her home, at play, making music, or in the artists words “laying in bed and gazing out the window - perhaps at the family church down the road.”
Black Girls on Good Friday 2016
Story of a Rape Survivor, SOARS
Inspired by Russel Lee Negro Boys on Easter Sunday Chicago, Southside 1941
Almost twenty years before #MeToo, photographer Scheherazade Tillet asked her older Salamishah, if she could actively participate in her recovery process by photo documenting her different stages of healing. In turn, Salamishah opened a window onto her sites of trauma and her newfound safe spaces. Over the span of fifteen years, she photographed Salamishah grappling with her sexuality, eating disorders, and the reclaiming of her spirituality and body, she and her sister found healing pathways for herself and others by bringing those images to stage in the performance, STORY OF A RAPE SURVIVOR (SOARS).
Murcurapo Girls R.C.
2007 - 2010
Murcurapo Girls R.C.
When Scheherazade moved to Trinidad and Tobago in 1985, she attended Mucurapo Girls R.C., a primary school at which Scheherazade’s grandparents married, her great grandmother Margaret Ramdoo was a caregiver and raised Scheherazade’s father who lived and attended the school. Scheherazade’s grandparents married at the school. As an adult, Scheherazade has only returned to Trinidad and Tobago three times (2007, 2010, 2020), and during each visit she has photographed the school and its students.
Trinidad & Tobago 2020
When Scheherazade first moved to Trinidad and Tobago, it was during the country's biggest fete of the year, Carnival. As the festival evolves and becomes more commercialized and Americanized, Kiddie’s Carnival remains an accessible and affordable ritual open to all. As a child, Scheherazade “played mas”; as an adult, she has been struck by how predominately female it remains as well as the performances enables a sense of freedom not typically given to children.
Picturing Black Girlhood