Installation shot of black and white photographic portraits by Kia LaBeija, part of her show 'prepare my heart' at Fotografiska New York in 2022


Kia LaBeija, 'prepare my heart', at Fotografiska New York

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Installation view of Kia LaBeija's exhibition 'prepare my heart', where gallery walls are painted in purple and blue hues, and photographs depicting scenes of New York, portraits of ballroom dancers, and family photos are displayed
Purple gallery wall of 'prepare my heart', featuring cityscapes of Manhattan and interior halls of a hospital are displayed next to old family photos of LaBeija
2 untitled self portraits of Kia LaBeija in black and white are framed and hung against a photograph wall mural of the interior of a closet
Prints of personal documents, old family photos, and compositions taken by Kia LaBeija are hung on purple and blue walls
A black and white printed photograph of Kia LaBeija's reflection in a cracked mirror is displayed next to old family photos on a dark blue wall
Black and white photographs of ballroom dancer performing displayed next to a Manhattan skyline
Close up details of ballroom costuming and performers
Close up portraits of ballroom performers, and black and white motion photographs of a ballroom dancer performing in a park against the city skyline
Personal documents, family photographs, and compositions by Kia LaBeija are displayed on purple and blue walls
Family photographs, a handwritten reproduction of a letter written by LaBeija's father, and a self-portrait of LaBeija lying with legs suspended on a bedroom floor are displayed on a blue wall
The skyline of Manhattan is printed as a mural on the gallery wall, with the exhibition title 'prepare my heart'
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Fotografiska New York

281 Park Ave South

New York, NY 10010

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Kia LaBeija's first ever solo museum show, titled prepare my heart opened at Fotografiska in New York. The exhibition, up for view until Mother's Day, is a deeply moving and poignant documentation of self-portraiture, family life, artifacts, urban landscapes, and the ballroom scene. LaBeija's own assessment and intimate history is intricately woven through these captures — the exhibition tells the story of the artist, as a dancer, a photographer, and an HIV positive individual.

We worked with Kia to produce this exhibition, making sure that the prints were fully representative of their subjects in both vibrancy and effect. After proofing trials, we printed the whole exhibition on Hahnemüle Photo Rag Baryta, a thick 100% cotton rag lustre type photo paper. We felt that the shadows and deep colors of Kia's photographs translated wonderfully on this paper's surface.

prepare my heart is an opening into Kia LaBeija's life and ongoing work to portray the realities of living with HIV. LaBeija contracted the illness from her mother, Kwan Bennet, who during her life was an established activist. Her mother passed away due to AIDS in 2004, but LaBeija's work goes beyond prognosis in her centering of the subject. In her photos are depicted moments of tenderness, kinship, and strength — her subjects while vulnerable in one sense, are also open, sexy, and glorious. Some of LaBeija's compositions have formal roots in traditional portraiture, while others remain more abstract in their movement. Within these are also images that delineate a life of medical precarity and stigma. Set amongst hazy, picturesque landscapes of New York city, the photographs deliver both person and place.

In addition to her photography practice, LaBeija is an internationally recognized ballroom dancer who was once the Overall Mother of the House of LaBeija, an iconic house founded in the 1970s. The triumph and color captured in these vignettes, as well as across the board throughout this exhibition, provide a beautiful visual narrative of a life lived.

Exhibition photos courtesy of Fotografiska, taken by by Dario Lasagni, 2022. Work courtesy of the artist, Kia LaBeija. Studio shots taken by Brooklyn Editions Inc.

Kia LaBeija examining her prints on table tops in the Brooklyn Editions studio

Kia looking at her prints for prepare my heart, printed on Hahnemühle Photo Rag Baryta

Kia LaBeija surrounded by her prints on tables in the Brooklyn Editions studio

Kia LaBeija surrounded by prints in the Brooklyn Editions studio, 2022