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AAAD-A 251 Photography of and by the African Diaspora

Professor: P. Wolfskill
Credits: 3

This course considers the ways in which black bodies have been depicted through photography, a mechanical and “objective” medium that has historically proclaimed to offer a direct index of reality. Often rooted in ideas of blackness as difference or otherness, photographic images (as documentation, archives, art, or advertising) influence cultural understandings of blackness historically and through the present day. Simultaneously, artists of the African diaspora have used photography to create their own conceptions of black identity and/or to meditate on the world around them in a manner that challenges blackness as connoting difference or otherness. This class investigates the complex relationship between photography and the African Diaspora from the photograph’s invention in 1839 through present day digital imagery. We will study a range of photographic genres, including fine arts and avant-garde practices, portraiture, photo books, advertising, and political, social, and scientific documentary. Most of our study will focus on images of African Americans within the history of the United States, although European and African contexts and image-making inform our investigation as well.

The class will use the rich collection of photography, film posters, and illustrated books housed in the Black Film Center/Archive (BFC/A) and Lilly Library. These resources will allow students to get closely engaged with primary and archival sources, using these materials to conduct original research and analyses of photographic images and learn foundational tools for curating a museum exhibition (writing proposals and labels, conceptualizing and organizing objects for display, proposing specific themes, etc.). The course will prove invaluable to students of African American and African Diaspora studies, art history, studio art, gender studies, and museum studies, among other disciplines. This class contributes to the fall 2017 themester topic “Diversity/ Difference/ Otherness” and will engage with the many themester events offered across campus.

Class Posting