“In the early days of railway construction, contractors often laid a temporary track to transport soil and materials about the site; when this work was substantially completed, the temporary track was taken up and the permanent way installed.”*
This is the first digital installment of BlackFlorida:
From the South to the Southernmost opens in Downtown West Palm Beach, directly across from Whitehall, Henry Flagler’s 75-room mansion, turned museum. Within a 5-mile radius lie Mar-a-Lago and 900 10th Street, the location of the most published photograph I have taken to date- a December 2015 image of young shirtless black boys in the streets- one boy with his head thrown back in exuberance as he physically struggles to carry in his arms, a dog almost his own size. January 2018, the house is remodeled and vacant, the children long gone, the neighbourhood rapidly changing hands.
The images in this series were all created during the period of 2015 and 2017, between the Downtown West Palm Beach and Pahokee. This digital show explores themes on impermanence and permanence via photography, and the manipulation of space, as historically black communities are shifted and removed to make way for their successors.
My process in creating the work for the project BlackFlorida is deeply collaborative with the communities.
Johanne Rahaman is a documentary photographer, working in both digital and film formats since 2002. Her most recent body of work, an ongoing photographic archive of shifting urban and rural spaces occupied by the Black communities throughout the State of Florida, consists of environmental portraits, landscape, architectural and still life images, underscoring the urgency and importance of recording these neighbourhoods that are in a constant state of flux. She started documenting these communities that mirror her hometown-the stigmatized Laventille Hills of Trinidad out of a sense of duty to offer the public an alternative view of working class Black neighbourhoods as a sense of place-as home, in a project called BlackFlorida. Compelled by a lack of nuance or positive representation of Black communities in media, this project offers a snapshot of everyday moments, highlighting entrepreneurship, beauty, sensuality, aging, mortality, youth, and resilience, as she seeks to amplify the silenced and marginalized Black working class. And at completion, these images will be repatriated to the communities in which they were created, via a trust, to serve as a bridge to the existing archives throughout the state, offering a broader narrative of Black life in Florida.
Rahaman's work has appeared in Vogue Magazine online, BBC, Slate France, Quartz Africa, and she has been featured in New Yorker Magazine, Jezebel, NPR’s WLRN and WMFE, Miami NewTimes, Orlando Weekly, and CBS4, NBC6. Her Jacksonville series has been published in the 2017 Summer issue of the Oxford American Magazine, and the inaugural issue of the acclaimed photojournal, Mfon: Women Photographers of the African Diaspora.
Rahaman is a 2017 summer resident artist at the Eileen Kaminsky Family Foundation (ESKFF) first live-work residency program in Miami, at Mana Wynwood.