Women of a New Tribe, by photographer Jerry Taliaferro, is a much needed reminder and visual confirmation that Black women are BEAUTIFUL! Mr. Taliaferro’s powerful images of African- American women ranging in complexion, age and size, represents the women who have raised us, our mothers, grandmothers, and aunts. The women who have stood by us, sisters in blood and spirit. And the women who have shown their beauty through strength, courage and determination. The perfect gift for every woman in your family, Women of a New Tribe is a must buy!
Clutch: Tell us about your journey in putting this book together. What message are you trying to send to the African- American community?
Jerry: The journey to this book has been a long and rather winding one that lasted over eight years in which I learned a lot about publishing in America. I now believe that the “Great American Novel” has probably already been written but the author became so discouraged after dealing with publishers and agents that he or she put the novel in a desk drawer and forgot about it. This common experience lead me to self-publish.
The message of Women Of A New Tribe is a very simple one; Real beauty is more than what strikes the eye it is also that which touches the heart. Real beauty comes in many forms both physical and spiritual. You look at a photograph of Pam Grier and you are struck by her physical beauty, you look at a photograph of Rosa Parks and you are stuck by the beauty of her courage. To appreciate real beauty you must open your heart as well as your eyes.
Clutch: When did your interest in photography begin?
Jerry: I first became serious about photography in 1981 while coming through U.S. Army Special Forces Officers’ Course at Ft. Bragg NC. Photography was a part of the instruction. After learning the basics, photography became one of my hobbies. After the course, I was posted to Germany where I continued to read and experiment and buy equipment.
Clutch: What is ‘beauty’ to you?
Jerry: Real beauty is that which uplifts and inspires us. The wonderful thing about Beauty is that God has placed it all around us. Beauty can be seen in the shape of a person’s head or how a man bravely faces adversity or a starry night.
Clutch: One of the things I noticed about your book is that you used everyday African American women, ranging in size, complexion and age. What was your purpose behind this?
Jerry: I wanted the book to be an exercise in “seeing” the beauty that God gives all women. I hope that the book will help us broaden our definitions of beauty and what makes a person beautiful. How great would it be if we could learn to see that inherent beauty a child sees when it looks up into the face of its mother, a being it knows will love and care for it. I want people to learn to see the beauty that exists all around us all the time.
Clutch: How did you choose these particular women to be featured in your photography?
Jerry: For the most part these women are from my everyday existence. They are friends, relatives and people I’ve worked with. The only requirement to be featured was to be a Black woman.
Clutch: There are too few examples of black beauty portrayed in the media. Do you hope that your book will show African American women, especially young women, that beauty is not limited to “one look”?
Jerry: That would be great! At one time I considered calling the book “A Different Beauty”. A woman’s beauty is her own, it should not be compared to another. It should not be called greater or lesser, it is it the beauty that God gives all women and it is a blessing that it is a different beauty.
Clutch: You used black & white portraiture, was there a purpose behind this?
The impact and power of a great black and white image is readily obvious. There is something about starkness of black and white photographs that allows you to focus the attention of the viewer. Perhaps it is the lack of color that accentuates composition and lighting.
Clutch: What women in your life have inspired you?
Jerry: As you get older, I believe you come to realize how much the women in your life impacted you. I believe that most of the women that I have known for any length of time have taught me something. In this regards I’ve been lucky. I have been around great women all my life. My mother and grandmothers were very independent and strong. I had great female teachers in school. In the South where I grew up during the struggle for Civil Rights, the women were the majority of the people who organized and marched. My wife is the strong silent type (a female Gary Cooper). My best friend is a female. At West Point, I witnessed the first class of females enter the academy. In the Military I served with women paratroopers. I’ve seen what women can do and I’ve always been impressed and inspired.
I recall a passage from the book Mexico by the late novelist James A. Michener in which one of the characters Don Eduardo, a breeder of great fighting bulls, explained to an American woman from where these bulls inherited their incredible courage. He wrote: “But his courage comes from his mother?” Mrs. Evans persisted. “Always,” Don Eduardo assured her, and it seemed to me that with this information Mrs. Evans straightened her shoulder slightly, as if she had long suspected that with humans, too, it was the mothers who determined the nature of their sons’ courage. – Mexico, A Novel by James A. Michener
Clutch: In your book, there is a quote by you that begins, “If you seek the soul of a people, look to its women.” That statement is so profound. What did you mean by this?
Jerry: Our women, to a large degree, determine who are and what we will become.