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My Dad Without Everybody Else

Published on 13 January 2021 at 05:30

Looking at Kalen Na’il Roach’s images is an engaging and intriguing experience. At first, they appear like humble bits and pieces of photography, mundane family photographs displaying the proudest moments in life: sport and school achievements, games with friends and family gatherings. Beyond these initial thoughts, their materiality and complex texture indicate wilful acts of vandalism; conscious scrapes and iterative scratches, scribbles in a diary. Jacqueline Woodson’s 1995 publication Autobiography of a Family Photo (and its nifty title) then comes to mind and seems to perfectly condense Na’il Roach’s endeavour. Born in 1992 in Washington, DC, in a split up family, a partial only child” as he phrases it, Kalen Na’il Roach started using family archival imagery — found in the bag of the Polaroid 600 SE his dad gave him — for his series This Is and This Isn’t My Family. He eventually continued to gather photographs from different family members that then became his source material.

Ineluctably, Kalen Na’il Roach’s work falls ...

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