The photographs in this portfolio are made with a large format, film-based camera, placed very close to the subject, and printed to a large-scale. The outcome of this effort is to transform the usually small and often fragile remnants of the struggle for freedom and equality into nearly monumental images. The content of the collections ranges from the vernacular documents that provided proof of ownership for white Americans over their fellow inhabitants primarily from Africa to buttons worn by civil rights advocates for the March on Washington in 1964.
Schools for the Colored is an extension of the ideas that formed the project Small Towns, Black Lives, in that; it is a continuation of my journey through the African American landscape. I began making photographs of historically African American school buildings during the very first weeks of the Small Towns, Black Lives project more than twenty years ago. In Schools for the Colored I began to pay attention to the many structures and sites (also making photographs of places where segregated schools once stood) that operated as segregated schools. These photographs depict the buildings and landscapes that were associated with the system of racially segregated schools established at the southern boundaries of the northern United States. This area, sometimes referred to as “Up-South,” encompasses the northern “free” states that bordered the slave states. Schools for the Colored is the representation the duality of racial distinction within American culture. The “veil” (the digital imaging technique of obscuring the landscape surrounding the schools) is a representation of DuBois’ concept, informing the visual narrative in these photographs. Some of the images depict sites where the original structure is no longer present. As a placeholder, I have inserted silhouettes of the original building or what I imagine of the appearance of the original building. The architecture and geography of America’s educational Apartied, in the form of a system of “colored schools,” within the landscape of southern New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois is the central concern of this project. The portfolio consists of fifty 18” x 24” prints. The entire project is also framed and packaged for exhibition.
commissioned public art project for the Salem County Cultural & Heritage Commission. http://7stepstofreedom.wordpress.com
Since I began making photographs of small (mostly rural) black communities in the U.S., my emphasis has been on the towns and settlements that were an expression of self-determination, even within the context of limited choices (i.e. segregation). For these descendants of African slaves brought to the U.S., they celebrate the arrival in “The Land” (Israel) with a May event called the “New World Passover”. Color is a way of delineating their lives a “New World” (commonly considered the ancient world) from an “Old World” (often referred to as the new world).
The Small Towns Black Lives project consists of photographs with the use of narrative fragments and various archival materials. The images are presented as windows onto public and private lives – combined with text, they weave a visual representation of the present accompanied by the collective memories of the communities. The photography began as a modest attempt to depict daily events and activities. Shortly after beginning the project, I became aware of a cemetery not far from the college where I teach. Four of the five remaining headstones were marked as veterans of the Civil War and the United States Colored Troops. Information about the origins of the cemetery was difficult to find since there was no longer a black community at the site. My encounter with this neglected cemetery led to more formal research and genealogy as I attempted to reconstruct the story of the African American settlement that was once located at the far edge of Port Republic. The information I accumulated on Port Republic’s black community prompted experiments with various formats for my work; the current prints often incorporate narrative passages with the photograph to describe aspects of the subject that could not otherwise be represented. Defining the format that would express the two forms of visual representation (seeing people and places with a camera and seeing people and places through documents and oral histories) was an evolving process. The photograph and text are joined in a manner that is quite different than the traditional diptych; the print hinges together the seen and unseen worlds of black experience within these few communities. These images are a selection from the portfolio.
industrial spaces of northern New Jersey and Brooklyn during the mid 1980's
These images form "sketchbook" of photographs that I have made over the years as means of paying attention to my unconscious and spontaneous reactions to daily encounters.
portfolios of photographic / camera-based media projects. a variety of devices as well as analog and digital media to create works that are primarily digital prints (pigment inkjet prints on paper) in their final form.