Beautiful, Still. is the first monograph from photographer Colby Deal, documenting the people, objects, and environments of everyday life in the Third Ward neighborhood in Houston, Texas, where the artist grew up. In this ongoing project, currently consisting of over a thousand negatives, Deal sets out to provide a visual record of overlooked communities and the cultural characteristics gradually being erased by gentrification, as well as a depiction of communities of color whose members are often portrayed with negative connotations. Through these instinctive black-and-white photographs, Deal’s down-to-earth approach to his subjects is made apparent; at times candid and blurred, other times poised and sharply focussed, the series builds to convey the dynamism and vibrancy of the family, community, and individual life in the Third Ward. The scratches and dust left on the negatives reflect the marks of lived life and simultaneously suggest the fragility of these documents and the corresponding precarity of the fabrics of social life they often depict.
Deal’s almost conversational tone — the antithesis of media portrayals of the neighborhood — invites his viewers in with a sense of joy and intuitive playfulness. From these alternately staged and documentary images, a new narrative emerges about a reductively and oppressively narrativized place, celebrating the agency and freedom that the photographic medium can offer.
Deal says: “In the age of imagery and information leading the forefront of altering humanity, the psychological effect of perpetuating practical narratives of a culture fuels my curiosity to search for and present the most accurate one.”
About the Author
Colby Deal is a photographic artist born and raised in Houston, Texas. He received his Bachelors of Fine Arts in the practice of photography from The University of Houston. Within his practice he explores the culmination of elements of the psychological environment as well as the physical. He shows the dynamic range of family, community and the individual by combining street photography and portraiture to capture vibrant communities. In the recent years he has incorporated the medium of sculpture and public art as a means of preserving cultural characteristics that are being erased and positively influencing his community and others alike.
Colby is directly inspired by his upbringing through getting to see his family’s photographs that were mostly taken by his father. This appreciation for slowing down and concentrating on photographing what’s right in front of him, “The Now”, has led him to be more in touch with using analog photography. Deal is an alumni of Project Row Houses residency, Red Line Contemporary Art Center residency in Denver, Colorado and in 2020, was awarded an exhibition at the Houston Museum of African American Culture. Colby became a Magnum nominee member in 2020.