How Do Photographs Form Us?

Reviewing The Human Touch exhibit at WAM, there were a lot of pieces that caught my eye. There was one in particular that I felt, as Historian for the Black Student Union, was very accurate in depicting our generation as black students. Especially black students on a predominantly white campus. This piece was created by Dawoud Bey and he called it, Sharmaine, Vincente, Joseph, Andre and Charlie.

3 photos of 2 people posing
Image courtesy of RBC Wealth Management

Bey was a street photographer who “felt an unequal distribution of power between himself and his subjects because they had no control over the image. He feared that his control over what to photograph replicated the historic inability of African Americans to determine their own identity.”

This stuck out to me because, generally, African Americans don’t grow up with the same aspirations as our white counterparts. It wasn’t until recently that young children could say that when they grow up they want to be president.

This piece mirrors the family-oriented and intellectual atmosphere that is the Black Student Union.

A crowd of people posing for a photo

In the end, “Bey turned to studio portraiture where, with its time-consuming set-up and shoot, he was able to collaborate with his subjects to achieve their more meaningful representation." This is the perfect example of what the Black Student Union strives to become: a more meaningful representation of the African American community on and off campus, reaching out to people without a voice.

How Do Photographs Form Us?, a lecture and workshop with artist Wing Young Huie, will take inspiration from this photograph and other works in The Human Touch. The Black Student Union, The Office for Equity and Diversity, and WAM Collective are joining forces to present this program on Friday, November 6th at 1pm-3pm. Please register in advance.

Averie Mitchell-Brown

Raised in the south suburban areas of Minnesota, I've always found ways to entertain myself through art. After first dancing on stage at the age of 11, I've taken classes in ballroom, West African, break dancing, jazz and contemporary. I'm a sophomore at the University of Minnesota - Twin Cities majoring in Cultural Anthropology with a minor in African American Studies. Working with well known artists like Kenna Cottman in Voice of Culture Drum and Dance, Aneka McMullen in Epitome No Question, Bboy J-Sun, Leah Nelson, and Maia Maiden have helped me improve as a dancer holistically and have taught me about the origins of the dancing community here in the Twin Cities. When I'm not dancing, I am a starting player for the U of M women's rugby team, the Historian chair for the University's Black Student Union, and the Public Relations Chair for Hip Hope. I want to travel the world learning about cultures, and teach cultural awareness and empowerment through arts in the Black community.

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