In The Photograph, journalist Michael (LaKeith Stanfield) meets and falls for museum curator Mae (Issa Rae) after reaching out out about a story. Michael was trying to learn more about a photograph taken by Mae’s recently deceased mother, Christina. It’s a photo of Christina as a young woman, and the journey Michael and Mae take to uncover the story behind it unearths two romances across two different decades. But is Christina in The Photograph based on a real person?
The idea for Christina was very close to home for the film’s writer and director, Stella Meghie. The movie is "mostly fictional, but the core idea of it came from something completely different," she told Essence. "My grandmother was about to meet a daughter that she had when she was very young that went to live with her father that she hadn’t seen in almost 30 years."
“They were meeting for the first time and she was flying from London. I just started thinking, ‘What would it be like if you thought about someone every single day for 30 years, but didn’t see them and love them? Then I kind of flipped it from a familial thing to a romantic thing,” she added.
Meghie’s grandmother wasn’t a photographer, but that doesn’t mean there wasn’t a black female artist who partially inspired this film. "In the script, I referenced Carrie Mae Weems as an inspiration for that character. I imagine her daughter, not being an artist yet wanting to be close to her mother. Growing up in the art world in New York, this is something she fell in love with and took on as her career," Meghie told Black Girl Nerds.
Weems is an artist who works with text, fabric, audio, digital images, and installation video but is primarily known for her photography. Her pieces examine family relationships, cultural identity, sexism, class, political systems, and the consequences of power.
Though Christina isn’t based on one particular person, she’s inspired by a tribe of women close to the director’s heart.
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