Whether or not you know Peter DeVito‘s name, there’s a decent chance you can instantly recognize his work. The photographer has made Instagram a beacon for his distinct style of portraiture: unfiltered closeups of diverse faces that send messages both literally and figuratively, with phrases adhered to the subjects’ skin and the handwritten thoughts of his models accompanying each photo.
DeVito has utilized his distinct presentation to shine a light on the normality of acne — a project that included self-portraits — and the importance of making body positivity and diversity more than just a trend. His series have always taken a thoughtful look at aesthetic topics; DeVito’s latest project, however, highlights a movement driven by much more than appearance: Black Lives Matter.
“I feel a duty to amplify Black voices right now because a lot of people are finally speaking up about Black issues, which is amazing and long overdue,” DeVito, who is not Black, tells Allure of his latest series. “But what’s not amazing is how some of them are speaking over Black people while they do it. We should all be listening to what Black people are saying and thinking. Their opinions matter the most because they are the ones being affected.”
The project was too important and urgent to let the limitations of a pandemic stop him from seeing it through. Taking into consideration the social limitations currently COVID-19 places on us, DeVito found a way to recreate the signature style of his photoshoots without ever being in the same room as his subjects.
“I FaceTime the models, tell them to go near whatever windows they have in their house, and shoot,” he tells Allure. “You can’t control a lot of factors over FaceTime, so the majority of the work is done in post-production.” Instead of the letter stickers he usually has his models wear directly on their skin, he made scans of them and added them to the faces digitally. The phrases include, “Being Black shouldn’t make me a target,” and, “There comes a time when silence is betrayal” — brief but powerful messages each model told DeVito they want to convey.
But, like DeVito’s past projects, the words on the models’ faces aren’t meant to be the entire message. Each person he shot for his series has also written their personal, emotionally profound thoughts on both current events and the history of racial oppression and inequity. Those notes are shared alongside each portrait, with some echoing the phrases on their faces.
DeVito has photographed more than two dozen models so far, but, as one of the models displays on her face, “BLM is not a trend” — so there’s no end date for this series.
“I see this as an ongoing project,” DeVito says. “I’ll keep this project going as long as there are Black models who feel comfortable and want to share their thoughts.”
See some of DeVito’s new photos below, and keep an eye on DeVito’s Instagram account for more portraits.
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