African American Artist Stacey Tyrell’s Powerful Self-Portraits Portraying Her As Her White Ancestors

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At first glance, this series by photographer Stacey Tyrell seems to portray nothing out of the ordinary, just portraits of white women living their lives. At closer inspection, however, you realize all of the women look the same; they share uncanny similarities with just a few differences in hair, eye, and skin color. In reality, Stacey Tyrell has staged these scenes representing depictions of Caucasian women using herself as a model. Interestingly enough, the artist herself is black. The title of Tyrell’s deeply memorable series is Backra Bluid. Backra, originating from West Africa, means white master or person. Bluid is a Scotch word for the blood of men or kin. These two words combined represent two different points of origin in the artist’s family heritage. Tyrell explores her ancestry in this series, which includes English, Scottish, and Irish.

Most everyone in post-colonial societies, especially in the Western world, is the descendant of a diverse range of ancestry, producing many individuals with what may appear to be ambiguous ethnicities. These individuals may identify with one, multiple, or even none of their racial or cultural identities. However, by nature, humans want to make sense of their surrounding and tend to place others in categories. Stacey Tyrell has experienced this first hand. She explains the significance of this experience in relation to Backra Bluid.

Upon viewing my physical features I am automatically assigned a racial identity by whoever is looking at me. Skin color often obscures and over-rides the features and markers of other races that may be present in my genetic make-up. By simply changing my skin color and making subtle tweaks to my features I wish to show that if someone were to take a closer look at my face they would see that it might not be that much different from their own.

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  • Boat Driver

    The most boring article I’ve seen this month

  • guesterer

    White face.

  • realdublestandard

    So this isn’t offensive and stupid then? Because if it was the latter this would be on everyou news outlet!

  • AnaisNinja17

    It’s not exactly white face as she has white heritage. Is she not allowed to acknowledge a significant branch of her family? Does her African heritage somehow cancel out her European one? She is not just black, but Scottish, Irish and English. She is entitled to claim those identities. This argument is ridiculous.

  • guesterer

    White people evolved from African ancestors, would you be mad at whites you paint their face black or whites who “act” black by either dressing or speaking like their ancestors closer offspring?

  • salena

    Let’s be clear, not all black people are African Americans. What happened to Afro Caribbean, Black British, Black Canadian, African etc ? I’m sick and tired of this blanket term. As a matter of fact, she’s what they call Black Canadian.

  • salena

    She looks really washed out in her series.