YOU KNOW Intisar Abioto. The artist behind the photo blog The Black Portlanders, Abioto regularly turns her lens to Portland's African American community in intimate, detail-oriented portraits. It's a conceit seemingly shared by the Sartorialist or Humans of New York, with one key distinction: Abioto really connects with her subjects. She talks to them. And she listens to their stories. Abioto's images almost always have a collaborative, communal feeling to them.
Contents, up through the end of April at Duplex Gallery, is a mix of Abioto's portraiture and documentary photography; not surprisingly, the portraits are the show's strongest pieces. Continuing her work on The Black Portlanders, Abioto shoots with the same careful attention, and rather than include dull, voice-of-god exhibition labels, Contents' accompanying text tells her subjects' stories. Admittedly, Duplex's sampling of portraits is small—I couldn't help but imagine what it would be like to see a larger photography space given over entirely to her work. (Confidential to Portland curators: You should actually do this.)
What's here, though, is more than worth a visit. In "Godbody," Abioto photographs Portland performance artist Keyon Gaskin from the side, capturing the way he carries himself as an off-duty dancer in a crowd. For "Daphne," Abioto traveled to Astoria to photograph a woman who works in a general store, learning along the way that while census figures suggest a population in Astoria of "around 60 people of African descent," locals reported numbers to her that were closer to "15 people, tops."
In "Keith," a high-school boy stands outside of King Elementary School, where, Abioto's text explains, he works with younger students. He looks straight ahead, almost beatifically, baseball equipment slung over his shoulder. "You don't really see images of young Black men as caretakers, as people with a particular kindness, as ones who can guide someone younger or older with care," writes Abioto. "You can read the image yourself."