Live & Essential: Q&A, Samantha Everette

This article was originally published on the Duke Performances blog

Join us this spring as we continue our season with twenty Live & Essential presentations, including new dance, contemporary theater, and music from established and emerging artists. We are thrilled to invite you to continue to safely experience live performances at Duke and in Durham in 2022.

As part of our Live & Essential season, we are pleased to feature photographs from Durham artist Samantha Everette’s Crowning Glory series, which was on view at Artspace and The Fruit earlier this year. Everette’s work aligns thematically with that of Urban Bush Women, who will return to Duke Performances Feb 18 and 19 with their dance-theater piece Hair and Other Stories. We spoke with Everette about her career change from fashion to photography and her vision for Crowning Glory.

Why did you decide to move from the fashion design industry into photography?

Being a shoe designer was a dream job but my career in the fashion industry was very corporate. I felt stifled and uneasy — both creatively and personally — working in a predominantly white corporate environment.  When I left the industry, I was really seeking freedom. I chose photography because of the autonomy. I now have the freedom to choose my location, medium, subjects, and message. I also love the creative community here in my hometown of Durham. A sense of freedom is what drew me to photography, but the creative community is what sustains me.

What brought you to Durham?

Durham is where I was born and raised. After spending ten years in New York and abroad, I just wanted to be at home. I had a strong desire to be closer to my family. I also missed the southern hospitality.

Crowning Glory by Samantha Everette

We were instantly drawn to the beauty and magic of your Crowning Glory photographs, and the stories the complicated staging seems to suggest. Tell us about your vision for the series.

Crowning Glory was an idea that just popped into my head one night. The idea was to create a display of exaltation of Black women. The original idea was to simply photograph women on pedestals. The rest of the visual story came about due to the women involved. I am blessed with a community of Black women that are creative and generous. I expanded the idea of photographing just one Black woman to include all of the women that create the visuals, but who often are left out of the final presentation. The result is a celebration of womanhood, sisterhood, and the beauty within those connections.

What is your next project?

My next project will be centered around Black joy. That’s all I can share about it at the moment, but I’m really excited about it.

Samantha Everette is a fine artist, photographer, illustrator and designer that lives in Durham. Samantha is a designer most well known for her work on the Jessica Simpson footwear brand. Her focus is in portraiture with an emphasis on Black people throughout the diaspora.