"In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, the cut paper silhouette was a popular portrait format. In those pre-camera days, the silhouette was a relatively inexpensive way to generate a reasonable artistic likeness of a person. The sitter was usually seen in profile from the shoulders up, and the contours of the face and hair were cut out of black paper. The resulting profile was then placed against a white backdrop, creating a boldly visual representation of the subject. These likenesses were essentially featureless – there was no detail at all aside from the edge outline – so while they certainly provided a recognizable essence of the sitter, they also reduced that person to just a few identifying physical characteristics.
Deeman has taken this original idea of the cut paper silhouette and thoughtfully repurposed it using photography. From a distance, her extra large images of women are effectively reduced to silhouettes, each one a dark profile against a shining white background. …But up close, the illusion of the featureless silhouette starts to break down. Deeman’s images are not flat forms, but color images with subtle nuances of skin tone, lighting, and depth. We can see the curves of collarbones and shoulders, the gentle hollows of eyes and chins, and even the tiny wisps of hair on the back of the neck. If we look hard, facial expressions and skin textures emerge, and we start to realize that these aren’t simplified types but real individuals. We can also now see more clearly that all of these woman have brown or black skin, so what Deeman is actually showing us is a complex and celebratory range of black femininity, hiding underneath the guise of reduction."