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Intersection: Photographer Shawn Theodore

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Shawn Theodore. Photo: Matthew Peddie, WMFE

Art history buffs will see familiar themes in the works of Philadelphia photographer Shawn Theodore. But Theodore also likes to take art conventions and turn them on their head, concealing easter eggs in his carefully composed and beautifully shot photographs.  Theodore’s works are exhibiting at Snap! in downtown Orlando alongside works by Jamel Shabazz.

Theodore’s work deals with themes of  spirituality, patriarchy, matriarchy and class structure in disappearing Black communities. 

In a photo called Supermasai, a cloak swirls around a figure like a superhero’s cape.

“I wanted to take what we consider to be that sort of iconic superman, and also the faux mythological sense of masculine identity that we have in our American culture, and I just sat back one day and thought, what if he was Masai?” says Theodore.

Theodore says the photograph expresses “power, and vulnerability as well, but also placing this African character within an African-American neighborhood and giving him that power that the Superman actually has.”

Theodore says he likes to spend time talking with people in a neighborhood before returning to shoot a series of photographs there. And he says Instagram helps him research locations too.

“When I’m looking at certain neighborhoods I’ll look at location tags and hashtags,” says Theodore.

“You can see an evolution of what’s happening within a neighborhood if you follow a hashtag, so it’s great research, and I love that there are so many people out here doing that. Some of my mentees I’ve found that way too: I’ve found people who are doing fantastic work but didn’t have support.”

The exhibition runs through May 12th.


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Matthew Peddie

About Matthew Peddie

Host of WMFE's Intersection & Assistant News Director

Matthew Peddie grew up in New Zealand and studied journalism at the University of Western Ontario. After graduating with an MA in Journalism he returned to Christchurch, working as a reporter for Radio Live and Radio New Zealand. He’s reported live from the scene of earthquakes, criminal trials and rugby ... Read Full Bio »