The confirmation of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court is undoubtedly one of the most significant moments in modern history. In breaking the concrete ceiling with this appointment, Justice Brown Jackson’s win is one deeply felt and internalized by Black women everywhere who see themselves reflected through her.
To further commemorate this moment, photographer Lelanie Foster took the first official portrait of the new Supreme Court Justice Friday morning. The portrait was first revealed on both Oprah’s Instagram account and Beyoncé’s official website, garnering significant praise and acclaim across platforms. Foster has gained notoriety for her work in Queen & Slim, as she was handpicked to visually interpret the film through her photography. She has since worked on a variety of projects spanning from Insecure to multiple publications.
EBONY spoke with Foster just moments after she photographed Justice Brown Jackson following her extraordinary bipartisan Senate confirmation. In her first interview since the groundbreaking moment, the Bronx lenswoman shared her thoughts on being selected to capture this historic portrait and how her work centering identity and Black women is intrinsically intertwined in this assignment below:
EBONY: How were you introduced to this opportunity to capture the first official portrait of Justice Brown Jackson?
Lelanie Foster: A phone call came in from my agent telling me that this opportunity came up on the heels of one of history’s biggest moments and she asked “Are you ready?” I was so ecstatic, floored, and shocked that I was even asked to capture Justice Brown Jackson. Especially because this came after me having just photographed the young Black women attending Harvard Law School, which is her alma mater. So, it is a very full circle moment and I’m filled with so many different emotions. I feel very honored and embraced by a community of Black lawyers at this time.
As a young Black woman, what does Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson’s confirmation signify for you?
For me, it’s just incredibly empowering. Anytime we see a Black woman, in front and in these kinds of situations, it becomes incredibly affirming. For us to see them recognized, celebrated and honored is beautiful. For me to be just a piece of that and to have spent that time with Justice Brown Jackson in this moment that celebrates her is so special. I feel like I, too, am seen and heard in this way for such a positive reason. It makes me reflect on how important this is for all Black women to see these moments exist. It’s encouraging.
How has the concept of identity manifested within your life and work and why is it important to explore Black womanhood through photography?
Exploring Black womanhood and identity in this way gives me really intimate access and space to connect with my subjects. I always go into all of my projects with this feeling of honoring and celebrating who’s in front of the lens. Every single time I’m on a shoot, it comes with that same kind of energy and frame of mind. It also gives me an opportunity to make a mark and to create an image that gets out there into the world an image that can be celebrated today and always. All visuals are so important—so for me to be able to have the power to create intimate, celebratory imagery of black women is highly important.