Powerful Portraits Visualize the Fear and Pain Black Mothers Face in the U.S.

Stranger Fruit by Jon Henry

“Untitled 48, Inglewood, CA”

In 2014, spurred into action by the senseless murders of Black men at the hands of police, photographer Jon Henry started Stranger Fruit. Through haunting portraits, Henry asks mothers to act out what it must feel like to lose their sons. Cradled in their arms like the Pietà, these boys and men lay lifeless as their mothers are left to pick up the pieces. And though the women in Henry's photographs haven't actually lost their sons, their pain and fear is still palpable.

Eight years later, Henry's poignant project has been transformed into a book. Now available for pre-sale, Stranger Fruit is a collection of images that ruminates on the loss of Black men in society and the hole that leaves within a mother's heart. “The mothers are often forgotten in this,” Henry told My Modern Met in 2018 when discussing the larger social issue, “and they should never have to endure this pain.”

Limited to just 500 copies, the book is a stunning collection of heartwrenching visuals. To accompany the images of mother and child, Henry also photographed these mothers alone. Lost in their thoughts, they are left to mourn and grapple with the reality of life without their children.

For Henry, who was named one of the emerging leaders shaping the future on the 2021 TIME100 NEXT list, the book is the culmination of his nearly decade-long project. The 59 images in the book are accompanied by selected text from the mothers. “The book is the final format for the work and the only way to truly realize/feel the power of not only the images but also of the words of the mothers in the series,” Henry shares.

Stranger Fruit is available for pre-sale through Kris Graves Projects. There are also a select number of archival prints that can also be ordered along with the book.

Stranger Fruit is photographer Jon Henry's response to the senseless killing of Black men at the hands of police.

Stranger Fruit by Jon Henry

“Untitled 63, Salt Lake City, UT”

For eight years, he photographed mothers across the country acting out the deaths of their sons.

Portrait of Black Mother Cradling Her Dead Son

“Untitled 35, North Minneapolis, MN”

Stranger Fruit by Jon Henry

“Untitled 61, Omaha, NE”

Woman Cradling Her Son

“Untitled 53, North Little Rock, AR”

And photographed them alone as they were left to mourn their loss.

Stranger Fruit by Jon Henry

“Untitled 22, Berwyn, IL”

Stranger Fruit by Jon Henry

“Untitled 57, Houston, TX”

Woman Sitting Alone

“Untitled 4, Harlem, NY”

Now the project has been transformed into a book—available for pre-sale—that includes the photos, as well as texts from the mothers.

Mother and Son in a Parking Lot

“Untitled 44, Crenshaw Blvd, CA”

Stranger Fruit by Jon Henry

“Untitled 7, Mt. Vernon, NY”

Jon Henry: Website | Instagram

My Modern Met granted permission to feature photos by Jon Henry.

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Jessica Stewart

Jessica Stewart is a Staff Editor and Digital Media Specialist for My Modern Met, as well as a curator and art historian. Since 2020, she is also one of the co-hosts of the My Modern Met Top Artist Podcast. She earned her MA in Renaissance Studies from University College London and now lives in Rome, Italy. She cultivated expertise in street art which led to the purchase of her photographic archive by the Treccani Italian Encyclopedia in 2014. When she’s not spending time with her three dogs, she also manages the studio of a successful street artist. In 2013, she authored the book 'Street Art Stories Roma' and most recently contributed to 'Crossroads: A Glimpse Into the Life of Alice Pasquini'. You can follow her adventures online at @romephotoblog.
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