Lauren Machen: Elemental.

© Lauren Machen.

The name of Lauren Machen’s premiere art photography series was almost Finally. As in, “I am finally addressing something that is at the very core of my being,” states the artist, who has previously worked in art direction for musicians such as St. Vincent and Rihanna. “Finally because a lot of subtle racism that people of color have had to struggle [with] are bubbling to the surface. People who aren’t of color just simply thought it didn’t exist or we were past that.”

Instead, Machen named the series Elemental, as in, “The very basis of my being. What my soul feels. My truth. Being mixed race, I was left to just sort of float in space because we didn’t really talk about race and ethnicity in my household… This is about peeling the layers away. Taking a moment to identify as I am rather than how others think I am or what I should be.”

Machen cites the 2016 election as a turning point for how she sees her racial identity, and even more specifically, Grey’s Anatomy actor Jesse Williams’s knockout acceptance speech for the BET Humanitarian Award. One of Williams’s most prominent lines from that speech was, “Just because we’re magical doesn’t mean we’re not real,” and its resonance is felt in Machen’s photos that capture surreal insertions of earthly elements into stark, honest portraits of people of color.

“I chose to incorporate the classical elements in the photographs: water, earth, fire, air, and also used falling sand as a symbol of passing time,” Machen explains. “There’s a mystery and magic to these elements, yet they are very real.

© Lauren Machen.

A brilliant series. You can read and see more at The Creators Project and Lauren Machen’s website.


  1. rq says

    Her work is so expressive -- I like the use of solid, intense blocks of colour (the clothing).
    Also I reaaally like those orange pants.

  2. rq says

    I would wear a pair of those to death. Especially since my current cramberry cords are showing signs of needing retirement.

  3. rq says

    I find them in gently used clothing stores, but that’s about it. Colour selection somewhat limited, but surprises abound. I need (want) a pair of navy blue cords, and I have a burgundy pair that are just a smidge too tight right now, but something in electric purple or goldenrod would be nice. Saw a pair of emerald green cords, but they were some ridiculously tiny adult size, so… no. :(
    Middle Child also adores pants in bright colours, but he wears the knees out of chords within, like, 3 months. I did find him a nice pair of scarlet jeans a couple of weeks ago, that was exciting, so I hope those last a little bit longer (long enough to actually grow out of them, that is). He actually has a pair of cords in that rusty orange colour, but they’re about to join the other bright pants in bright pants heaven (also they don’t have that awesome dark brown complementary component). Either way, I wouldn’t possibly fit in them anymore. ;)

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