Clifford Prince King’s Tender Portraits of Black Intimacy

LA-based creative Clifford P. King uses photography to document his experiences as a queer Black man. Through his lens, he honors and celebrates everyday rituals, capturing the beauty of communion with intimacy and grace. His cinematic portraits have been featured at the Jeffrey Deitch Gallery in Los Angeles, the Leslie Lohman Museum in New York City, the Beverly Hills-based Marc Selwyn Gallery and more. In his collection of images titled, We Used to Lay Together, King explores affection in all forms. His subjects take center stage amid warm lighting, lush greenery and domestic settings. The imagery is delicate and poetic, cinematic and erotic. We caught up with the lensman for an exploration of his work and creative vision.

“Most times I just go outside with my camera and whatever feels good, I capture with friends I’m with,” says King of this 2022 portrait titled, “Michael.” (Photo by Clifford P. King)

“I’m vulnerable throughout my work with hopes of allowing freedom and expression for myself.”

Titled “Communion,” nostalgia was the inspiration behind this photograph. (Photo by Clifford P. King)

When did you first fall in love with photography?
As a child. Not sure how or why, but I was always interested in disposable cameras and taking pictures of family members.

What inspires your work?
Mainly my emotions, surroundings and cinema. My photos are a time stamp of where I’m at in my life and become evidence of my existence.

King’s 2019 image, “Como Park” was taken on a spring afternoon in Dallas,Texas. (Photo by Clifford P. King)

How did you carve out your style and how would you describe it?
My style is a reflection of my photographic eye. But also, I look at lighting, empty space and time of day.
I would describe my style as realistic fantasy, as well as in the moment.

How do you use photography to amplify your experiences as a queer Black man?
My photography serves as a personal visual diary. I’m vulnerable throughout my work with hopes of allowing freedom and expression for myself and hopefully others. So I guess, not necessarily amplify, but moreso, to make my queer experience evidential.

King (sitting on the floor) used a 10 second self timer to capture this 2020 image titled “Safe Space.” (Photo by Clifford P. King)

Many of your subjects are people that you know personally. How do you go about choosing who to photograph and does it ever become challenging working with people you know?
I think it’s based on energy and who I can be most open and explorative with. I don’t always have my vision set up, so sometimes it’s nice to surround myself with people I can be candid with. There is a spark and/or vision that manifests while together in a space.

Taken in 2019, this image is a still from King’s short film, “Growing Each Day.” (Photo by Clifford P. King)

What do you hope viewers will take from your work?
As of lately, I would hope that viewers can find beauty and value amongst the people in their everyday lives.
Sometimes that ‘thing’ you’ve been looking for for so long is right in front of you. By being present and looking deeper, you can find it.

In 2019, King and a group of artists moved into this West Adams house, which served as a place of safety and creativity during the pandemic. King titled this work, “I Told My Baby to Meet me on 24th street.” (Photo by Clifford P. King) 

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