Profile: Nydia Blas Boyd (1981-)

Nydia Blas Boyd is an American photographer from the state of New York, whose works explore the identity of young black women and girls. Her concern at the lack of black women represented in the visual arts has led her to concentrate solely on making images of women of color.

Early life and education

Nydia Blas was born in 1981 and grew up in Ithaca, New York. Blas received her bachelor’s degree from Ithaca College in cinema and photography with a minor in African diaspora studies. She received her Master of Fine Arts in photography from Syracuse University.

Photography

Blas began making photographs as a teenager. At first, she was interested in photography as a process, particularly trying and failing until the desired product is achieved. She then became intrigued with photography as a means to influence public opinion, citing the use of photographs by the anti-lynching movement to turn the public against lynching.

Blas’s photographs explore black identity, particularly young black women and girls. Blas stated that she draws inspiration from Audre Lorde’s concept of “the erotic”, which includes not just sexuality but also intimacy among family members and friends. One of her photo series is entitled The Girls Who Spun Gold. The name of the photo series comes from a Virginia Hamilton book The Girl Who Spun Gold, which is an African-American interpretation of the classic fairytale Rumpelstiltskin.Priscilla Frank of HuffPostcalled the series “a celebration of girls in all their sloppiness, softness and strength”.

Most of the subjects of Blas’s photographs are black women. In a 2016 interview, Blas noted the lack of black women represented in visual arts, stating “This is why I have I chosen to currently make images of only women of color.”Blas believes that her work challenges the notion of black women as “hypersexual beings”, saying that the stereotype was created “to reinforce very old stereotypes that were created to justify the mistreatment and exploitation of black women during slavery”. The subjects of her photographs instead express sexuality on their own terms, reclaiming “their identities and their bodies”.

Blas’s work has been displayed at The Wing in New York City and Washington, D.C.; her work was also included in an exhibition called Vigilance, Struggle, Pride: Through Her Eyes that traveled through Europe. In 2016, Blas was a Visual Artist-In-Residence at the Center for Photography at Woodstock. In 2018, her photo series Whatever You Likewas displayed at the Garey Gallery. Also in 2018, she was one of three recipients of a Light Work grant.

Personal life

Blas had her first child when she was 18 years old. As of 2019, she has three children. She stated that her experience as a mother “runs through all of my work”.

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