In Memoriam: Charzette Torrence

(January 26, 1964 – March 18, 2023)

NYWIFT Member Charzette Torrence, well-known Detroit artist and photographer, has passed at 59 from cardiac arrest. She is best remembered through her photography of queerness in Detroit, where her artistic eye captured stunning shots of the love and joy around her. Torrence earned her bachelor of fine arts degree from Midtown’s College of Creative Studies, then known as the Center for Creative Studies, in addition to studying photography. Torrence would also occasionally teach at the Center as well. 

She is the recipient of the first award that Pride Source’s biweekly print publication Between The Lines ever received. The winning shot was from a Living section cover photo in July 1998, as part of Michigan’s yearly celebration of Black gay pride, Hotter Than July. Its co-founder Johnny Jenkins said of Charzette: “[her] photography captured the essence of Black queer Detroit at a time when our identity was hidden and devalued by others. She understood the importance of our moment to showcase us loving and being our fierce authentic selves in a distinctly Detroit fashion.”

Torrence has also photographed celebrities such as Aretha Franklin, Ellen DeGeneres and Chaka Khan, and her work has appeared in magazines such as Black Enterprise, Code, Hue, and Essence.

More recently, Torrence was working on a television and streaming show entitled Jillian’s Peak. Its pilot was selected by major film festivals in both New York and Los Angeles, and was voted one of the top ten scripts in the 2019 LGBTQ+ Toronto Film Festival. She also had a piece in the 2022 month-long art show, entitled Mighty Real/Queer Detroit.

She is survived by her wife, Danielle Johnson, who says this: “Charzette was the type of person that always tried to help people, to give them advice and stuff. She had a big heart.” 

For more about Charzette’s work, click here, and information about Jillian’s Peak can be found here.