A look at Haitian New York-based photographer Ed Maximus’ stunning ongoing series For Colored Girls. Juxtaposing vibrant hues with the depth of black skin, he turns each of his subjects into works of art, highlighting his adoration of our melanin goddesses.
Most of the text is from 45 Master Characters: Mythic Models for Creating Original Characters by Victoria Lynn Schmidt.
Hera the powerful goddess of marriage and fertility spills forth the stars of the Milky Way seeding the earth. Heracles’ (Hercules) name means “glory of Hera,” a testament to her immense power. When Zeus took a liking to her she was able to resist him until he promised to marry her. He later betrayed her causing her to become vengeful. Marriage vows are sacred to her, and she would not leave Zeus or give up on their partnership. She now uses her power to hold the family of the gods together, dispensing justice and advice.
Wandering the cold winter streets at night, Demeter searches for her abducted daughter Persephone. Ceasing to eat, drink and sleep, she is consumed by the empty space next to her where her daughter walked at her side. Her tears of depression cast a chill over the fields of grain. Nothing grows across the land she walks on. Winter takes over with her every step until her beloved daughter is returned to her. Only then will grain grow and spring come to the land. She cares not for herself but only for her child.
High up on the mountain, Zeus surveys his land and castle. He looks down on those around him, making sure everything is in quiet order. Everywhere one turns, his watchful gaze can be felt; his power lingers long after he has left the area. He fills the sky with his image and demands respect. Beautiful women have no chance to tell him “no” as he is a forceful and sneaky lover, often disguising his true self to them. He can be your best friend one minute and your worst enemy the next. His wife Hera is the only one who can force him into things, often because she has the power to make his home life a living hell.
From the depths of the ocean, the realm of emotions, Aphrodite emerges a perfect image of beauty. She covers herself with an implied modesty but does not crouch or hide from your gaze. She charms you with an innocent smile all the while knowing the hold she has on you. She steps from the sea, her hair flowing in the breeze. The sea creatures give up their lives just to follow her onto land and gaze at her for one moment longer. She takes in the sights and smells of her surroundings as if she’s a child in a strange land. Everything is fascinating and beautiful to her. Desire and love follow her, turning wise men into fools.
Under the glimmer of the moonlight among towering forest trees, walks the goddess Artemis. Close to her side she carries with her a silver bow and arrows. She glides through the night watching over innocent young women and seeking out a challenger to polish her skill as an expert archer. She is chief hunter to the gods, goddesses and wild animals. As she walks beneath the moon in her wilderness, her ears are ever open for the sound of a young female, human or animal, who may need her help in childbirth or need her protection from rape. With a quick temper she punished those who offend her. She is a goddess who chooses to live without a mate, self-sufficient. With great precision and concentration, she sets her mind’s eye on a goal and pursues it until the end.
Dancing through the fields, Persephone picks flowers as the sun sets. Without a care in the world, she stops to watch butterflies flutter around her feet. In the distance she sees a magnificent narcissus flower and runs toward it. Picking the flower, her mind so absorbed in the moment, she doesn’t see Hades rising up from the Earth to kidnap her as his bride, the flower his bait. The harsh reality of life has taken her by surprise and awakened her from her blissful stupor. She learns to use her suffering to help others by guiding their souls of the dead to their final resting places. Her mother’s grief at her absence allows her to return above ground in the spring when the flowers bloom.
High on the hill overlooking the battlefield, all of the gods watch the war taking place below except for ares. In full armor, he delightfully joins in the fight. He fights to satiate his lust for blood rather than to win a noble cause. Everything physical is joyous to him, and his passion leaves all in his wake breathless. He is known as the protector of the community and of families, but any reason to join in a brawl is a good enough reason for him.
Underneath the full moon, Dionysus dances with the women from town. As the only man present, he joins with his own feminine nature and holds the attention of all the women present. He serves them wine, intoxicating and loosening them up. Even the old and quiet women find themselves rejoicing around him, shedding their harsh self-images for more positive and fun ones. He brings out the best in them and shows them the best in himself. Together they experience moments of ecstasy and joyous madness.
Prometheus was the Titan god of forethought and crafty counsel who was entrusted with the task of moulding mankind out of clay. His attempts to better the lives of his creation brought him into direct conflict with Zeus. Firstly he tricked the gods out of the best portion of the sacrificial feast, acquiring the meat for the feasting of man. Then, when Zeus withheld fire, he stole it from heaven and delivered it to mortal kind hidden inside a fennel-stalk. As punishment for these rebellious acts, Zeus ordered the creation of Pandora (the first woman) as a means to deliver misfortune into the house of man, or as a way to cheat mankind of the company of the good spirits. Prometheus meanwhile, was arrested and bound to a stake on Mount Kaukasos where an eagle was set to feed upon his ever-regenerating liver (or, some say, heart). Generations later the great hero Herakles came along and released the old Titan from his torture.*
Behind the flickering light of the hearth fire, Hestia blesses a home with feminine compassion and family unity. Her spirit brings joy, peace and happiness to all those in her presence. In the quiet of the night she meditates near an open window, sharing in the joys of the nighttime creatures that wander the woods as everyone else lays sleeping. She sits for hours reflecting on the inner journey of her mind, forever at peace no matter what the world brings to her doorstep.
In the depths of the sea, Poseidon forever sets the course of fate on waters of emotion, raging waves one moment and calm tides the next. He is unpredictable, dangerous and intriguing all at the same time. His eyes hide a mystery no one can quite touch. Once you think you know him he changes. Once you think you have helped him through an emotion another one surfaces more intensely than the last. He can give abundance from the sea’s riches or take your life for venturing across his waters.
During the war against Olympians, Cronus made Atlas their leader mostly because of his war skills, extreme orientation and durability. As it turned out, he was quite a leader and it looked like for a long time that they were going to win the war. However, they were outnumbered in the end, because Cronus made too many enemies during his ruleage. Atlas was, unlike his relatives, condemned to a special punishment by Zeus himself. He made him as an eternal caretaker of the axis between heavens and earth which were controlled by his predecessors in the past. Because of his endurance, Zeus believed he was just going to be able to control them and do nothing else in the meantime. He was right, Atlas was, according to Aeschylus and Ovid, barely supporting the enormous weight of heavens on his shoulders. However, there is an alternative description of the titan by Valerius Flaccus and Virgil who are describing him as enormous giant standing in the ocean with his feet and his head reaching above the clouds while with ease holding the heavens apart from earth.**
Underneath the brilliant shining Sun, strides the god Apollo along the beach. He surveys the ocean, preferring to look at the horizon instead of examining what lies beneath the waves. His mind is always set on events in the far distance. He carries with him a bow and arrows, which allow him to attack from a comforting distance. He glides through the night watching over innocent young children and seeking out a challenger to polish his skill as an expert archer. His logical mind makes him the dispenser of justice, and his strong willpower allows him to accomplish any goal he sets for himself.
Dwelling in the dark underworld, unable to find light, Hades lives inside his head. He has no need for friends or acquaintances but instead prefers to linger alone. His life is full of the richness of the imagination as he goes about his daily activities. His mind is always somewhere else. He never realized what he was missing in his life until he came upon the beautiful goddess Persephone. Seeing her he knew he needed some companionship to get through his life, but unschooled in the ways of love he kidnaps her and drags her into his underworld life. He steals her innocence and realizes how unfeeling he has become. As his love grows he decides to sacrifice part of his time with her so that she may visit her mother in the Spring. She has taught him compassion and self-awareness.
Dancing through life, the fool lives without a care in the world. He exists between the world of adults and the world of children. All of life is simple, light and amusing to him. He wanders from place to place looking for a new playmate- whether it be a person, a dog or a game doesn’t matter to him. His heart is full of love and laughter. He is the most playful of all the gods and often acts as a messenger between humans and the gods as he loves adventures and travels.
As mysterious as an owl in the dark night air, the goddess Athena hovers proudly over the great library and the victorious battlefield. She will not dirty her hands in battle but will remain at the side of her chosen heroic soldier, helping him to win the war. She offers him strength, power and knowledge as well as her undying loyalty. She carries a shield of armor in one hand and an image of the goddess Nike in the other for Nike is the symbol of victory. Born from her father’s head, she has no mother and no room for female companions of any kind. She is smart and takes full control of her emotions.
Touch: raindrops falling
Sight: flash of light through the rain
Scent: day after a rainstorm
Emotion: a slight startle when a large thunderbolt lights the sky
Hear: resounding crack of thunderbolts
Taste: the numbing surge of electricity when testing a battery
Touch: the feeling of the wedding ring
Sight: the tears of love as a betrothed walks down the isle
Scent: the welcoming familiar smell of home
Emotion: love as grey as the hair time and passion has aged like wine
Hear: sound of child laughter
Taste: home cooked meal hot from the oven
Touch: the cold pool of tears after a panic attack as sleep calms the suicidal
Sight: a funeral procession honouring the soul to the underworld’s gates
Scent: freshly dug earth in a cemetery
Emotion: peace after a loved one has passed
Hear: the quiet of a cemetery
Taste: salt of tears as a life is not taken
Touch: wind through a open car window
Sight: yellow lines and green lights ensuring a speedy travel
Scent: lingering smell of gas at a full station
Emotion: relief as a long awaited trip arrives
Hear: clinking of coins in a till
Taste: the dryness after a long walk along a gravel road
Touch: long dry grass crunching in the fall
Sight: auburn, reds and golds of Autumn
Scent: pumpkin spice and freshly mown grass
Emotion: solitude and a festival glow as December rolls around
Hear: a lawnmower’s growling as it works through tall grass
Taste: fresh fruits and the taste of nectar and milk
Touch: creamy texture of chocolate in your mouth
Sight: long distance partner smiling after being far away
Scent: lovers perfume/cologne
Emotion: heart pounding, misty eyed love as a smile comes from seeing a love in your arms
Hear: impassioned breaths of intimate moments
Taste: the passionate kisses between lovers forgetting time for a moment
Touch: the long embrace of a soldier and child/love as they come home
Sight: half mast flag
Scent: soldier’s sweat after taking off his uniform from all day
Emotion: pride in your country
Hear: the resounding “Daddy!” of a coming home surprise
Taste: fresh food cooked after time away from your country
Touch: aching feet of a retail worker as they slump in a break room chair
Sight: the clock
Scent: burning embers of a fire, stale ash
Emotion: relief and excitement getting a job offer after searching relentlessly
Hear: clang of an anvil and sizzle of molten iron in a cooling bucket
Taste: cast iron cooked meals, fire cooked steak
Touch: the calluses on your fingertips after months of practice in guitar strings
Sight: beautiful works of art
Scent: lemonades on a day in summer
Emotion: shivering goosebumps as an emotion is struck hard with music
Hear: the sharp and clear melody of a freshly strung guitar
Taste: slight moment of metal and ink as a pen is drawn to your tongue
Touch: animal’s soft fur like water through your fingers
Sight: doe slowly walking out of a dense forest
Scent: a forest with rich leaves
Emotion: awe as a baby deer and mother wait patiently for your car to pass before crossing
Hear: twang of a arrow releasing from a bow string
Taste: cooling water after exploring in the woods
Touch: stiff spine of a new book cracking open
Sight: a deserved verdict to a defendant
Scent: old pages/books
Emotion: peace inside a bookstore
Hear: hoot of a stirring owl in the evening
Taste: fingertips as they’re licked to turn a fresh page in a book
Touch: embrace of a love come home again
Sight: the first spring flower blooming
Scent: new morning dew in spring
Emotion: relief and glowing love as a partner smiles on a long awaited Skype call
Hear: buzz of bees in the summer
Touch: tide bringing you in to shore again
Sight: crisp blue of the ocean at peace
Scent: the sour smell of a seafood section of a supermarket
Emotion: awe inspired by an image of the open sea
Hear: hooves thundering along a dirt path
Taste: salt of the sea as it slashes into a smile while swimming
Touch: the padding comfort of a bandage on a healing wound
Sight: seeing a loved one feel well again after sickness
Emotion: the drowsiness of NyQuil as it lulls your symptoms away to sleep
Hear: fresh air after sickness has clogged your sinuses for weeks
Taste: the sweetness as a sigh of relief escapes your breath
Touch: your cheeks stretching against your teeth as a yawn escaped into the sunrise
Sight: painted reds and oranges of a sunrise
Scent: morning dew in springtime at 6 am
Emotion: excitement for a day ahead, full of possibilities
Hear: the morning birds stirring in the early morning light
Taste: morning coffee next to an open-curtained window
Touch: moments when you can feel comfortable with your body after dysphoria
Sight: the charcoal of a panther, eyes glowing in the night
Scent: draping aroma of a fertile vineyard
Emotion: Pride in being part of a LGBTQ community
Hear: chorus laughter of a raucous party
Taste: sweet tang of a well aged wine