Cindy Elizabeth is a portrait and documentary photographer from Austin, TX with a client list that includes Vogue, Bloomberg, Google, and more.
Cindy Elizabeth is a freelance portrait and documentary photographer based in Atlanta, GA. Her work explores concepts of culture, history, and symbolism in everyday life. Elizabeth’s work has been exhibited in Los Angeles at SEASONS LA Gallery, and in Austin at The Elisabet Ney Museum, The Art Galleries at Austin Community College, Martha’s Contemporary Gallery, The George Washington Carver Museum, ICOSA Gallery, and the University of Texas at Austin. Client List: Vogue, Bloomberg, Google, The New York Times, The Guardian, Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, Texas Tribune, GQ Magazine, Equal Justice Initiative. Follow Cindy online at CindyElizabeth.com.
Friends pose for a photo in Austin, TX. April 2017.
A couple poses with their dog in Austin, TX. March 2021.
Givens Park, February, 2023.
Revive the Culture Marching Band perform at the Juneteenth Parade in East Austin, TX on Saturday, June 18th, 2022.
Kind Clinic Presents: Freaknik '22. Austin, TX 2022.
A slab rider poses with his children in Houston, TX. June 2023.
SLAB riders hand out candy in the Juneteenth Parade in East Austin, TX on Saturday, June 18th, 2022.
Ray Ray Topaz gets ready for a performance backstage at Swan Dive in Austin, TX on Tuesday, May 30th, 2023.
Kamesha Brooks and horse Sophia at Roll N Da Dice Stables in Austin, TX. May 2021.
"Juneteenth Cowboy" Dennis Milligan stops for a moment during the annual Juneteenth parade in Austin, TX. June 2021.
This interview was conducted between Jae Nichelle and Cindy Elizabeth in November 2023.
First of all, wow. Your work is simply stunning. I feel immediately transported to the room or on the street right along with your subjects. What draws you to documentary photography—capturing real people and real events?
Thank you so much for this sweet compliment!
What I love the most about documentary photography is the ability to tell stories. Storytelling is a very interesting and impactful form of art and one that I enjoy very much. One of the first ways I remember being actively engaged with art was through storytelling. My mother would read stories to me and share stories about her childhood as a sharecropper in Texas. There are so many stories I have forgotten over the years and I regret not being able to document them before my mother’s death. I believe this is what continues to move me to document the stories of people who I share parts of my identity with. There are a lot of interesting stories to be told that often get overlooked and that inspires me to do that work.
These photos are so distinctly Texas and Southern. There are images from a Juneteenth parade, from Freaknik, and specifically of movers and shakers from Central Texas. What are your thoughts on the state of Southern representation in media and art right now?
The South has always been a place of change-making and cultural production and influence. As Black southern folks, we are not always given our just do or credited with our creations once they’ve become co-opted by mainstream society. As Andre 3000 said, “The South got somethin’ to say” but are we listening?
Can you talk a little bit about your process for selecting which photos feel right to you for a given project?
The process can look different for each project but, generally, I like to look for the images that convey the most emotion or information about who a person is. The goal is connection so I select images with that in mind. In the end, what I’m hoping for the viewer is that they connect with the people in the images.
In a profile for Sightlines Magazine in 2020, you mention black and white being your preferred color palette. These recent images are incredibly vibrant with color. Has this changed for you? What is your relationship with color these days?
Early on, I really came to rely on black-and-white images as a way to isolate the elements that I wanted the viewer to focus on. When documenting people in public spaces, there would often be a lot going on in the background and I felt that just having the tones present in the image helped to block out distractions. I also just really love the look of black and white photography and employing it as a way to give a nod to some of my favorite photographers like Roy DeCarava and Gordon Parks. As time went on, I started employing color in my photographs because I felt like black and white was doing an injustice to some of the communities I was documenting. Color is such an important part of the fabric of the South. In Texas, we are very colorful. Color is part of the way that we choose to step out into the world and represent ourselves, our fashions, our hair, our nails, our cars, etc. It plays a vital role in how we move through the world and choose to represent ourselves. So it’s important that that is reflected in the work and in the representation of Black people in the South.
You’ve been part of many amazing exhibitions and have shot for companies like Vogue, Bloomberg, and Google. Are there any specific hopes and dreams you have for your work in the future? What are they?
I hope to continue exhibiting work, continue expanding my practice, and exploring new realms of art making, and my number one hope is to publish a photo book.
You recently moved from Austin to Atlanta! Have you discovered any favorite spots in Atlanta so far?
I haven’t had much time to really explore the city and surrounding areas. My first priority has been to find my new favorite restaurants, bookstores, and my go-to movie theater and comic book store. I’m still exploring and hoping to narrow down my list soon. I had the opportunity to see Janelle Monae perform at the Fox Theater and it was a breathtaking venue. I hope to have a reason to go back soon.
What are you doing when you’re not working on photography?
I love my Nintendo Switch and I love my cozy games. I also spend a lot of time reading and watching Star Trek with my wife. 8. What are three things you have to keep in your bag or on your person? Ooh, good question! Other than my wallet and phone:
1. Lotion 2. Lip Balm 3. Sunscreen
How can people support you right now?
Name another Black woman artist people should follow.
One of my many hometown favorites: Blakchy
Torch Literary Arts is a 501(c)3 nonprofit established to publish and promote creative writing by Black women. We publish contemporary writing by experienced and emerging writers alike. Programs include the Wildfire Reading Series, writing workshops, and retreats.