Tiff J Sutton is a portrait photographer(b1981). Her work is characterized by the Black gaze, dual perceptions, and unique landscape; by placing Black femininity at the forefront; through complex, layered images, and introspective portraits. She has attended community colleges and Washington University in St. Louis. Sutton has been featured in NPR and Humble Arts Foundations. Sutton has won the 2022 Black Women Photographers + Nikon Grant and was a resident at the Gullkisten Center for Creativity in Laugartvn, Iceland in June 2022. She draws upon Black feminist thought to create abstracted portraits of Black women. She is based in St. Louis, Missouri.
Photographer Tiffany Sutton’s body of work is rooted in narrative portraiture, family vernacular, and candid documentary photography. Her style developed out of an interest in cinematography. Her still images were mostly a self-biography that grew into something more.
Sutton wanted to examine how the Black family represented American culture and began by photographing her mother, Vera, and father, Ralph in 2001. While creating a series of self-portraits, she would double-expose images to create a “twin”. The Twin I Always Wanted was a sister figure, and was there to help Tiffany deal with the stress of an ill father and her own Bipolar I disorder. Unnamed, the twin would listen and comfort Tiffany while also encouraging her to create and take photographs. In one image the ghostly double is seen mirroring the original in stature, clothing, and expression. Later, The Sutton’s in Technicolor came to an end when Ralph passed away. What began as an evaluation of the quintessential Black family evolved into photographs as a visual manifestation of Blackness's intimacy and nurturing aspects.
Drawing repeatedly on her experiences and widespread emotions, Sutton creates photographs regarding selfhood and personal landscape. Her static photographic images were enlivened by abstract multiple exposed portraits of friends, herself, again, her mother. Sutton aims to capture the intensity, and the intellectual and emotional imprint of her sitters and ultimately explore the possibility of multiple meanings, dual perceptions, and the limitlessness of the seemingly binary.
Using different cameras, she creates a multitude of images of the same woman and layers them sporadically onto one frame. Photographed in studios, outside locations, interior backdrops, and neighborhoods, Sutton is determined to catch every emotion at the core of the sitter.
For Sutton, Black women are a part of the conversation in the American Art canon. Her portraiture explores Black feminism and its absence in white spaces inside museums. Sutton’s sitters claim their space even if they can’t in their lives. These non-monolithic portraits show the legion of Black women. In Sutton’s photographs, the sitter can finally be herself. Her sitters are free and unbound by societal expectations of them.
Starting with the curiosity evolving in a visual love letter to her parents Sutton is poised to bring comfort to herself and to her sitters. Sutton’s love language is the camera and she lavishly frames her lens on Black women.
Sutton’s work is a way for viewers to consider, honor, and appreciate Black women and femme bodies. These works depict bodies in movement, space, and as a unity inside of Blackness.