For Stafford photographer Pamela Shook, the winter months, with the bustle of wedding and family portrait season out of the way, are when she focuses on creative work.
“What I am going to do to set myself apart?” said Shook, a self-taught photographer who has operated a photography business with her husband since 2017.
Shook’s four children are frequent subjects and last winter, after talking with her high school-aged daughter about how Black History Month is and isn’t celebrated at her school, she had an idea.
“I thought, what if I turn [my kids] into iconic African Americans?” Shook said. “And I wanted to do it really professionally.”
For each of her children, she chose an image of a historical figure they could portray and carefully studied the lighting, costume and pose of each portrait.
She transformed her toddler son into Frederick Douglass and her preschool-aged daughter into the educator and activist Angela Davis.
“We couldn’t find a black T-shirt dress in size 5T anywhere, so I had her wear one of my black workout T-shirts,” Shook said.
Two other daughters portrayed singers Eartha Kitt and Lena Horne.
Shook shared the images on social media, where “they got a lot of attention,” she said.
This year, Shook decided to do another series, this time bringing in her nephews to pose as Malcolm X, Jackie Robinson and Muhammad Ali.
“In the Malcolm X picture, the glasses are actually a composite of two pairs, because we couldn’t find exactly the right ones,” she said. “And for Muhammad Ali, the boxing glove is an oven mitt wrapped in duct tape.”
“I love just watching [the kids] transform into these people during the editing process,” she continued.
Shook said her goal with the series is “awareness.”
She was happy when a friend told her that seeing the images inspired her to research the historical figures behind them.
“That’s exactly what I wanted to hear,” Shook said. “I want more people to be educated about black history.”
It’s important for her to contribute what she can to the celebration of Black History Month—and inspire people not to forget about it once February is over.
“If you don’t know where to look [for celebrations of black history], you might not see any,” Shook said.
Shook is already percolating with ideas about what iconic figures she wants to portray in next year’s Black Heritage series.
She’d love to do Jesse Jackson, Martin Luther King, Diana Ross, Barack Obama and Dorothy Dandridge.
To see all the images in Shook’s black heritage series, visit photographyessence.net/black-heritage-re-enactments.