The Fae Richards Photo Archive
Not on view
Gelatin silver prints and chromogenic prints with type-written text on paper
2/3 | 2 APs
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; purchase, with funds from the Contemporary Painting and Sculpture Committee and the Photography Committee
Rights and reproductions
© Zoe Leonard
Created in collaboration with filmmaker Cheryl Dunye, The Fae Richards Photo Archive comprises eighty-two images that document the life story of an imaginary person, a black lesbian actress and blues singer named Fae Richards. Zoe Leonard’s narrative unfolds as a series of photographs that track Richards’s life as a teenager and then as a Hollywood screen star, through the Civil Rights era, when her film career was obstructed by racism, and finally to her old age as a forgotten figure. Each film still, candid shot, family photograph, and publicity picture has been staged and styled for optimal realism, with period-specific clothing, makeup, and lighting. The captions were produced on a vintage typewriter, and many of the images were manipulated to simulate the patina of age. By including a casting list of the women hired to play Richards, Leonard acknowledges the project’s artifice, encouraging the viewer to recognize that she had to create a story that is fictional, but rings true, because the real life counterparts of such stories went undocumented.