Colby Deal is a photographic artist born (b. 1988) and raised in Houston, Texas. He received his Bachelor of Fine Arts in the practice of photography from The University of Houston. Within his practice, he explores the culmination of elements of the psychological environment as well as the physical. He shows the dynamic range of family, community and the individual by combining street photography and portraiture to capture vibrant communities.
In recent years he has incorporated the medium of sculpture and public art as a means of preserving cultural characteristics that are being erased and positively influencing his community and others alike. Colby is directly inspired by his upbringing through getting to see his family’s photographs that were mostly taken by his father. This appreciation for slowing down and concentrating on photographing what’s right in front of him, “The Now”, has led him to be more in touch with using analog photography. Colby Deal is an alumni of Project Row Houses residency, Red Line Contemporary Art Center residency in Denver, Colorado and in 2020, was awarded an exhibition at the Houston Museum of African American Culture.
Colby became a Magnum
nominee member in 2020.
Source: Magnum Photos
Colby Deal is a firm believer in the potential of photography to be a transformative medium. “Especially now with Covid and how it is separating people, imagery is so important”
he says, over video call from outside his home in Houston’s Third Ward
, where he has been photographing with the intention to uplift cultural representations of the predominantly Black neighborhood. “People of color and people from under-resourced communities are always shown negative images about themselves,”
says Deal, whose practice involves pasting his images onto abandoned buildings and derelict shopfronts. “Imagine being a kid, waking up, getting on the school bus, and seeing yourself displayed monumentally in a positive manner. That can have a strong psychological effect on the way you think about yourself and others. Like seriously, just a glance at an image can change your thought patterns — it can change your whole life.”
Adopting a participatory approach, Deal’s process involves a lot of talking and walking. On a typical day, he will drag his large format camera on a wagon, stopping at people’s doorsteps and porches for a drink, smoke, and conversation, about their lives and the condition of their community. “I don’t want to call it a story because I sound like a fucking news reporter,”
he laughs, “but what I’ll do is walk around, find things I like, and shoot around it”
. The culmination of these excursions is Beautiful, Still, an ongoing collection of over 1,000 black-and-white negatives of street photographs and portraits.
The ability to layer these historical, personal, and social contexts in a single image can be cited back to Deal’s childhood and evolution as an artist. Deal was initially self-taught, later enrolling in the Photography BFA at The University of Houston, mostly for “the network,”
he says, and to “learn how to better articulate what I was doing”
. The documentary photographer, who last month became a Magnum nominee, is also a sculptor, carpenter, graphic designer, and painter. “As a child, everything I found joy in was about art,”
says Deal, who was drawing from the age of three, and later developed an obsession with breaking down objects and piecing them back together. “That aspect has played a huge part in what I do today, which is looking at an idea, concept, or message that I want to get across, then starting from the root, and working from there.”
Source: British Journal of Photography