Photographer Clifford Prince King says that his images start off as daydreams. “Or, experiences that I’ve had and thought about,” the 29-year-old says. We’re at Gordon Robichaux, the site of his first solo exhibition in New York. The Vogue contributor points to an image of two queer men of color sharing a single towel, both awash in the warm glow of intimacy. “I’ve had that experience,” King explains. “Things like this will happen in my normal life, and I kind of backlog them in my mind and recreate them with people who are comfortable with each other.” The models, D’Angelo and Rashad, appear relaxed and vulnerable in their diligent post-hookup proceedings. “These two are the best of friends,” King says of the duo.
Such lush scenes—chock-full of narrative and personal meaning—are the focus of King’s new show, “Hush-a-bye Dreams.” The collection of nine images, taken over the course of eight years, features queer black men in various states of love, togetherness, contemplation, and rest. Friends hang out in a bedroom and pass around a blunt; two lovers shower together; a young man irons garments in his underwear. One standout image, titled Rabbit Hole (2022), makes the viewer feel as if they’re gazing through a peephole. A circle of black engulfs a young man staring off into the distance, comfortable in his solitude. “Someone punched a hole in his wall,” King explains of the scene, taken in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn. “It was, like, a bad roommate situation.” While visiting the subject, King, who primarily lives in LA, shot a few photographs. It’s a common practice for the artist whenever he’s in New York. “I use other people’s spaces as a studio and capture their essence. I always find something beautiful, even if it’s a hole in the wall.”