NY Fashion Photographer Tarik Carroll Presents First Solo Exhibition in Indianapolis

Photos Courtesy Artist

The Michael A. and Laurie Burns McRobbie Emerging Artist Series at Herron School of Art and Design presents the first artist of the series, Tarik Carroll, with his exhibition: EveryBODY IS A GOOD BODY: The RE-formation of Beauty Standards. The Emerging Artist Series is intended to showcase and support a diverse selection of emerging artists nationally and internationally, and to provide learning opportunities and experiences for faculty and students. Carroll is a New York-based fashion photographer, body positivity activist, and visual artist breaking new ground in his work. His exhibition will run through April 26 and is open to the public.

For his first solo exhibition, Carroll says his biggest challenge was deciding what to share. His work is very diverse, yet all centered around the same themes: color, lighting, and inclusivity. He decided to go with a broad range of his work for the exhibition, rather than honing in on one theme. Carroll is very experimental with lighting and shadow play, and knows how many different stories can be told with color. In his exhibition, portraits vary from bold, contrasting colors that portray a fun and retro vibe to deep reds and blacks that show sultry and sexy looks. 

Carroll got his degree in graphic design, and towards the end of his degree he realized he wanted to pursue photography. From doing shoots with his friends to cutting class to shoot with models, he pursued his passion. Some of Carroll’s main influences are Madonna, David LaChapelle, and Lil Kim. He grew up in Brooklyn just a few blocks away from where Lil Kim grew up and is inspired by her story and style. Madonna inspires him in being able to switch his style up, but still keep his main themes intact. David LaChapelle’s work is what initially inspired Carroll to become a photographer. 

“I saw his work for the first time and was like, ‘This is what I want to do,’” Carroll says.

Carroll has paved a way in fashion photography, in editorials, and in his own personal projects. Carroll had a groundbreaking feature in GQ France celebrating plus-size Black models. He worked with rapper CupcakKe, who insisted none of her stretch marks be retouched. Carroll honored that request, and the photos are strikingly beautiful. The EveryMan Project is an ongoing series that Carroll started to empower all men to practice self-love rather than self-hate. He is creating a safe space for all male bodies to be celebrated. Carroll is intentional with his art, and wants to make sure he is putting out work that has an impact. He says he asks himself two questions when creating: “One, is there a need for this? And two, how do I want people to feel when they see this imagery?” 

One need in his work is speaking up about brands faking the inclusivity narrative. As a plus-size person who is an activist in body positivity–Carroll knows when brands are appearing to be diverse, rather than actually working with a diverse team. He sees right through tokenism and half-assed efforts. Carroll knows how to spot tokenism because he quite literally laid the groundwork for brands looking to be more inclusive. Carroll worked with WGSN, a trend forecasting company that works with big brands to help them get on board with the latest trends. In the interview he talks about what inclusivity really looks like in fashion. Brands that pay WGSN–including names like Adidas, ASOS, and Reebok–watched this interview to learn about body inclusivity in fashion.

“I can easily spot performative activism; and that’s what a lot of these fashion brands are doing, and they need to be called out on their shit ASAP,” Carroll says.

Carroll worked with Adidas for an “inclusive” Pride ad campaign. After getting sizes and measurements for the home shoot via FaceTime (this ad campaign was done during the height of Covid-19), Adidas still sent a 2X jacket. Carroll says he is easily a 5X. He let his agent know he could possibly make a 3X or 4X work, because the jackets run big. After letting his agent know this, Adidas still sent a 2X. Carroll was able to make the 2X jacket work, but it wasn’t comfortable and he could barely move. He says he was concerned that people who followed him in his size range would see him wearing the jacket, but then the correct size wouldn’t be listed on the website for them. Adidas did not end up offering sizes up to 5X. He was contractually obligated at that point, and had to do the shoot anyway.

 “I really want to call out these producers who really don’t give a fuck,” Carroll says. “If no one calls them out, how are we going to have any change?”

Carroll is speaking out to change the narrative. It starts by calling out brands that are not actually committed to inclusivity. Carroll says one way to know if a brand is really dedicated to the movement is to look at the team they are hiring. Photographers, wardrobe stylists, and other team members whose portfolios are full of only white, one-size bodies is not a good sign that the company really cares about body positivity.

EveryBODY IS A GOOD BODY: The RE-formation of Beauty Standards will be on display at the Herron Galleries through April 26. Admission is free and parking can be validated at the gallery desk. Head to the Herron website for more information on visiting the gallery. Check out Carroll’s website to explore more of his work and follow him on Instagram.  

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