Visual Art » Art

The Black Portlanders

Profiling Photographer Intisar Abioto

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INTISAR ABIOTO moved to Portland three years ago. A native of Memphis with a background in dance, she runs a street photography Tumblr called the Black Portlanders (theblackportlanders.com). The site is heavy on photos and light on commentary, and its very existence serves as a gentle rebuke to the asshole observation—usually made by 23-year-olds who think they're being hip and worldly—that "there are no black people in Portland." I sat down with Abioto to talk about why she started photographing her fellow black Portlanders, and what she's hoping to accomplish with the project.

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BLACK PORTLAND: "Sometimes with black history and culture, it can be so much about the past... and the past is relevant and you need to know it to understand things, but I'm interested in the present: Who are these people now, what are they creating now?"

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VISIBILITY: "There's this culture in Portland that's being branded now, and spread around the world, whether it's through Portlandia or through the 'makers' and the food and the startup businesses, that it's this beautiful place, this green place, the city that works. And that's nice and good and true in many aspects, but I don't know how much people of color are in that branding."

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MISSION STATEMENT: "There's so much talk about black people in this city, the history of black people in this city, and gentrification, and the trauma of the multiple displacements that happened and are still happening. I wanted the Black Portlanders to be about the beauty of the people, because that's where you can find what needs to be found."

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ALL TALK: "I like to talk to people. It's funny 'cause I used to stutter really badly—I still stutter sometimes. I wouldn't say this project was the thing that helped, exactly, but approaching people that you normally would not be able to talk to—because we're in the habit of not talking to each other—is so rewarding. People want to talk."

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ADVENTURE TIME: "It feels like an adventure, when I leave the house. That's the thing that can get you really living—making an adventure in your own terms, on your own values, that contributes to your community in real ways."

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