Created as early as the 15th century, Tarot Cards have long been a source of spiritual guidance for those willing to dissect their purposefully obscure meanings.
For the uninitiated, attempting to understand Tarot Cards is a monumental undertaking. Each deck's characters, actions, and stories are purposefully opaque and are often best interpreted by an esoteric reader who has spent a lot of time studying a deck. Even then, there remain a handful of different readers that prioritize these interpretations based on empathy, intuition, or sometimes "psychic ability."
Tarot Card's obscurity itself has obviously invited a host of skepticism; but criticism aside, the cards themselves are artistically gorgeous. They're multilayered and spritely, each character layered in waves of vibrant color that each take a few moments to visually comprehend. But just like the plethora of styles and meanings behind Tarot Cards, no two decks ever look the same.
The idea behind all of this is that it's imperative for those looking to make the most of their Tarot Cards to find both a deck and a reader that reflects who they are. When photographer Kendrick Daye was shopping around for a deck of his own, he found that aspect challenging.
"All the decks I saw were either predominantly white if they were queer-themed or cis-themed," he said. "Or they were made by white creators, if they were Black decks."
A firm believer in Tarot readings, Daye struggled to find a deck that represented him and other queer Black experiences, so he decided last fall to make his own. Each card he showed me was vastly different from the last. On one, two tattooed Black men sensually hold each other atop a gorgeous bed of flowers; on another, a gorgeous unclothed woman is caressed by bejeweled Black hands. They were all spectacular and deserved to be printed into their own decks. So Daye Started an IndieGoGo page to raise money so the project could become a reality.
For the uninitiated, what are Tarot Cards? In your eyes, what do you believe to be the importance behind these cards?
They offer guidance for you. You can have or ask a specific question, but that's not always necessary. I believe you should "eat the meat and spit out the bones," so to speak. Take what resonates and discard what doesn't with the information presented in a reading.
What was your initial vision like for this project?
Initially, I was looking for a deck to purchase for myself; but all the decks I saw were either predominantly white, if they were queer-themed, or cis-themed or made by white creators, if they were Black decks. so I've been toying around with the idea of creating my own deck. At first, I was just going to use older artworks, as I'm inspired by esoteric and occult art. When I decided to finally start on this project last fall, I also decided to take on the task of creating all new works and photographs for most of the muses myself.
What kind of energy did you aim to capture for each subject?
With the muses, I aimed for them to look... beautiful and desirable, but I'm also adamant about them looking like they have agency and control in the visual situation presented in a [card].
Tell me about the role Tarot Cards have played in your life.
Tarot, astrology, and other tools of divination have played an important role in my life. I've grown, and these tools have been able to guide me in specific times of my life. I got my first reading from Justin Henry (tarotsupreme.com). That reading gave me clarity on a lot of situations in my life that gave me the comfort and confidence to push through.
The Black Queer Tarot Cards
Were you surprised by the reception to this project? You've raised almost $16,000 for "Black Queer Tarot" so far.
Thank you! And absolutely! I knew this was a project I believed in, but you never know if that is going to translate in interest from everyone else. I was overwhelmed in a totally good way with the initial takeoff. Every day I'm just so grateful to see people getting life from work and projects. Initially, I was so shocked!
Tell me why these Tarot Card reinventions are needed. As an artist, what are you trying to relay to your audience?
Similar to my story of looking for a deck that reflects me, I'm sure other people in my community have similar experiences. When I see people doing readings on Twitter, it's usually with decks with faces that don't reflect them. I think those readings, which are already so powerful, can be even more potent when the faces reflect the reader who is performing the reading. And even for lovers of tarot and just art in general, these new versions are so necessary for giving communities that are normally shut out of conversations about representation a chance at seeing accurate depictions of themselves in the media.
Tell me about the photoshoot for these cards.
The shoots were the part I worried about most, but the task was so smooth. I put up a few flyers on social media looking for muses and scheduled those in 30-minute intervals. In October and November, I photographed about 5 to 7 people a day in my studio in Harlem.
What were some highlights? Any challenges along the way?
The highlights were getting to know the muses. The shoots themselves were already intimate because of the nature of the shoots, but I was able to ask questions about their life that added context to each of the cards when I worked on the artwork. The only challenge was COVID, which in hindsight was just more of something we had to be aware of than an actual challenge. I just had to make sure I took precautions, and I'm happy to say no one on my set got COVID!
How did you get into photography? Where do you hope to go from here?
I used to run an art magazine back in the day called Art Nouveau. I did a lot of photography for the magazine. Ironically enough it was photography that led me to collage. Years later it was by way of this project that collaging got me back into photography.
Hopefully, we get this deck funded. We have so many ideas for the retail rollout after the IndieGoGo campaign has run its course, but right now we're pushing that! At the moment we're at 60% of our goal with a month left to go.
The Black Queer Tarot Cards