The protests that arose after the murder of George Floyd marked a change in the way American citizens engaged with monuments dedicated to enslavers and confederate leaders. At this time, Macalester College alumna Kyera Singleton was the museum director for the Royall House and Slave Quarters in Medford, Massachusetts.
Macalester College sought to include Kyera’s unique position and experience in their Summer 2021 issue of Macalester Today. They reached out to Boston-based photographer Nicole Loeb to capture portraits of Kyera at the museum, as she reclaims and represents the painful history that continues to affect Black communities today.
This project was Nicole’s first editorial assignment with Macalester College, which is located in Saint Paul, Minnesota. The school’s publication, Macalester Today, is a digital liberal arts initiative that connects faculty, students, and alumni about all aspects of the institution’s current news.
As a Boston native, Nicole was interested in the assignment from the onset, eager to learn about many complex layers that exist within Boston’s local history. The Royall House and Slave Quarters have consciously chosen to include the history of slavery in its name to acknowledge the estate’s enslaved individuals who maintained the property for many years. Nicole appreciated being a part of a project that shed light on the work done by Kyera and the museum and felt her authentic style of portraiture aligned with the story’s honest reclamation of the past.
I have a passion for showcasing BIPOC individuals that are moving the needle, breaking ceilings, and accomplishing the unthinkable.
Kyera, who after Macalester earned a PhD at the University of Michigan and studied at Emory University, is currently an American Democracy Fellow in Harvard’s Charles Warren Center for Studies in American History. It is clear from her personal investment in her own education that Kyera thrives in academic settings that speak to her intersectional relationship with America’s racial history.
Upon meeting Kyera, Nicole immediately felt welcomed by her infectious smile and energy. She provided them with a tour of the museum, taking care to point out her favorite aspects of the property and its history.
Capturing Kyera’s editorial photos was a lovely experience. We mainly photographed in the main part of the museum to avoid the Boston midday heat and sun.
Given the sensitive nature of the museum’s subject matter, Nicole sought to capture portraits of Kyera in moments of reflection. Through Nicole’s images, we see Kyera’s pursuit to reclaim the painful legacies of the past that aids institutions, museums, and everyday citizens in unraveling America’s history of generational trauma.
While I loved photographing her bright and enthusiastic, I also wanted to make sure that I created some portraits of her that were more serious, earnest, and thoughtful.
Photographer: Nicole Loeb