Breaking and Remaking
The New Photographic Voice
Instructors: Ruddy Roye and Mary Beth Meehan
6:30 – 9:00 pm Eastern via Zoom
Eight Tuesdays beginning September 22, 2020
To allow for extra time to work on projects, the second four weeks of class are spaced two weeks apart.
September 22, 29
October 6, 13, 27
November 10, 24
Course fee: $650
One scholarship position available
Limited to ten students
Left: Photo by Ruddy Roye from When Living Is A Protest. Right: Photo by Mary Beth Meehan from Seeing Newnan.
Recognizing that documentary photography has, since its inception, been an essential tool used to define, describe, and often denigrate “The Other,” particularly with regard to African Americans and people of color on the national landscape, we believe it is time to deeply examine and reconstruct our practice.
In this course, students will work with photographers Ruddy Roye and Mary Beth Meehan to consider the history of documentary photography and the ways in which it has helped to instantiate and maintain some of the most pervasively destructive stereotypes in American life. Students will then seek to embark on a practice that involves self-examination, historical research, contextualization, and collaboration — in order to make new work that is revelatory in its discoveries, accountable to its subjects, and effective in bringing about real social change.
The course will be part reading and discussion, part lecture, and part short assignments and critique.
Roye and Meehan will deconstruct their large-scale projects, sharing with students their process, their intentions, their engagement with communities, and the outcomes of their work. Roye will begin by showing “When Living Is A Protest,” a sweeping, ongoing mirroring of African-American life, framing it in light of nationwide demonstrations for the full enfranchisement of Black people in the United States. Meehan will share a decade’s worth of public installation work, culminating with “Seeing Newnan,” a long-term, large-scale public portraiture project that upended community narratives in a small Georgia city.
Roye and Meehan will then move into a discussion around these questions:
Ruddy Roye and Mary Beth Meehan
Though Ruddy Roye and Mary Beth Meehan come from radically different backgrounds and perspectives, their connection began at the intersection of their professional concerns.
A native of Jamaica, Roye has crisscrossed the country engaging on a personal level with the African-American experience, combining deep research, writing, and self-reflection to contextualize what he sees for his viewers. As one of the premier innovators and artist-activists on the Instagram platform, he has amassed 300,000 followers and was Time’s 2016 Instagram Photographer of the year. Widely exhibited and published, he has received assignments and been featured in such publications as The New York Times Magazine, National Geographic and Time. www.ruddyroye.com/
Meehan, the granddaughter of immigrants to Massachusetts, has spent the past twenty-five years embedding herself in communities across the United States, combining writing, photography, and large-scale photographic installations to challenge dominant narratives and jolt people into reconsidering one another. Her large-scale portraiture installation in Newnan, Georgia, was featured on the front page of the Sunday New York Times on Martin Luther King weekend in 2020, and included an in-depth article on how the project helped to shift perceptions in that small town. www.marybethmeehan.com/
Both Roye and Meehan feel it is their duty to interrogate their own preconceptions as they work to meet people on their own terms, and to make work that is born of empathy and connection. They share the goal of wanting their viewers to engage in this same inward-looking process — to notice their preconceptions, to gain insight into how they see others, and to engage in the kinds of conversations that can open their minds toward the people around them.
They also believe that their duty is to challenge the distorted narratives that have aided in the oppression of people of color in this country for generations. They believe that image-making can be part of the practice of “representational justice” — creating new, more authentic visual narratives that honor the full humanity of the people around us — and that through this kind of deliberate process, photography truly can help change the world.
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