Watch now: Heartland College gallery showcases Bloomington-born photographer | Arts and Theater

NORMAL — Rashod Taylor’s images on display at Heartland Community College grew out of the normal photographs many new parents take of their children’s early years.

“Like any new dad, you take snapshots of your son,” Taylor said.

His use of large format film to capture his son’s childhood sets his work apart. The project became “Little Black Boy,” featuring photos of his son, LJ, taken on a large format camera that uses 4 inch by 5 inch film.

Photographer Rashod Taylor talks about his relationship with his son, LJ, during a discussion of his work at Heartland Community College’s Joe McCauley Gallery, Monday. Taylor’s exhibition, “Little Black Boy,” will be on display through May 13.


“There’s not a lot of (positive) images, of media representation, of a little boy growing up in America,” Taylor said.

Taylor grew up in Bloomington-Normal and came back after attending Murray State University in Kentucky. He and his family recently moved to Missouri. The images, which will remain on display at Heartland until May 13, were taken in Bloomington.


“LJ and His Fort” by photographer Rashod Taylor is one of his works on display at Heartland Community College’s Joe McCauley Gallery. Taylor examines the relationship between Black children and America in many of his photographs.


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Growing up in Bloomington-Normal, Taylor said he never had a negative interaction with law enforcement, but having conversations about topics like police brutality is part of what he feels he has to do to protect his son as much as possible.

Taylor won the 2021 Arnold Newman Prize for New Directions in Photographic Portraiture, which is given by the Arnold and Augusta Newman Foundation and run by the Maine Media Workshops and College. Some of the photos from “Little Black Boy” are now in the permanent collection of the Museum of Fine Arts Houston.

“His photographs are deeply rooted in photographic traditions and break new ground,” the award website said. “Intimacy and honesty speak to an under-addressed chapter of the United States: The Black American experience, particularly the relationship between father and son is a focus of his work.”


Rashod Taylor’s “Reflection of Me” examines the photographer’s relationship with his son, LJ.


His interest in photography started with looking at family photo albums when he was 8 or 9 years old, Taylor said.

Taylor went on to do photography for the school newspaper and yearbook at Normal Community High School and then The Murray State News in college. An internship with Essence Magazine helped cement his interest, he said.

He kept shooting photos while working a job as well. Then in 2019 and 2020, interest started to pick up, he said.

In 2020, National Geographic reached out to him, Taylor said. He ended up doing a project on Black military families. He has also worked with ProPublica on a series about Black farmers in Pembroke Township in Kankakee County.

The increased interest in his work coincided with increased interest in Black artists following the murder of George Floyd, Taylor said. Museums, gallery owners and others began to think about the work that had been ignored that was done by artists from historically marginalized backgrounds.

“I would say in the art world, yes, there is a lack of representation,” Taylor said.


Photographer Rashod Taylor’s portraits of Black US military families broke new ground in portraiture and landed the work in National Geographic.


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That is part of why he was glad to be able to hold the workshop for Heartland students on large format cameras. It can be important for students to be able to see themselves reflected in the people they are learning from, Taylor said. The students may also have never used large format before.

“I really like to give back, because I never had a Black professor,” he said.

His exhibit at Heartland is up through May 13 and is free and open to the public.

Contact Connor Wood at (309)820-3240. Follow Connor on Twitter: @connorkwood


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