Decolonizing Our Practice
A Reading and Discussion Group
Course facilitator: Mary Beth Meehan
6:30 – 8:00 pm Eastern via Zoom
Eight Thursdays beginning September 22, 2022
Course fee: $475
Limited to 15 students.
Option to pay 25% deposit now with balance due one week before course starts.
Critiques have long simmered about photography and its history – particularly the making of photographs that represent the human subject — as having objectified, exploited, and been harmful to the people they represent. Particularly in the hands of white photographers representing a person or culture different from their own, the ethics of this practice has, in the past few years, come into critical question.
In this discussion group, class attendees will read and consider writings that raise these questions, including by Ariella Aïsha Azoulay, Mark Sealy, and others. They will use their interests, projects, and working methods as a reference point for thinking and learning. Over eight weeks, we will come up with a draft of a “working manifesto,” a live document that outlines practices that might be abandoned, others that could be strengthened, and new methods and approaches to try.
Mary Beth Meehan is a photographer who has spent the past 25 years working intensely in American communities, reflecting them as complicated ecosystems influenced by migration, economics, culture, and race. In doing this work, she has often found herself trying to understand and portray cultures that were not hers. In recent years, she has become increasingly preoccupied with the questions surrounding the ethics of this role, and she has realized that many photographers are asking themselves these same questions, unsure how to proceed.
In Decolonizing our Practice, Meehan will convene a group willing to explore these issues together as concerned practitioners to develop new ways of thinking and working. She does not pose herself as an expert but rather as someone eager to create and learn alongside a community exploring these issues. Each week, she will introduce readings that touch upon historical and contemporary themes; students will read on their own time and come to class ready for sharing and discussion.
The class is open to photographers and other photo professionals, including editors, curators, publishers, and educators.
Mary Beth Meehan
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. Her first book, “Seeing Silicon Valley,” was published in 2021 by the University of Chicago Press. www.marybethmeehan.com/
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