Transcription of Artist’s Talk by Sheila Pree Bright
Be Here Now, TCNJ Art Gallery
October 28, 2020
First of all, I want to thank TCNJ for the invite. And is it kind of sad we can’t see the show physically, but I’m really excited about being in the show and doing the talk for tonight.
I’m going to start off talking about me as an artist using the medium of photography and how I actually started in photography. My younger years I was brought up in Germany up to the age of six years old. I was very introverted. I was very shy and I was a lover of books. I would always stay in the house. But when I began to go to college, and my last year in college, I decided to take a photography course because me being young, when I was younger shy and introverted, I was still the same while I was in school. I didn’t really hang out a lot. I had friends, but they were like, you know you won’t come out, you won’t do anything. I took a photography course and that really opened me up to really speak. And so I always tell people the photography found me and allowed me to speak.
The first image that you see is an image that I shot this year, in 2020. I’m based in Atlanta, Georgia. I was over in one of the communities. And I was so amazed of this mural because it had the little crown on it and it said “Lonnie Hood” and that crown is that symbolic of [Jean-Michel] Basquiat’s artwork and so I immediately get out of the car and started talking to individuals in the neighborhood. And keep in mind. I’m not from the neighborhood. And I wanted to know who Lonnie Hood was. And they told me that Lonnie was a good man, and that he really helped the community, but how he helped the communities that he sold drugs into the community. But he helped the community and that reminded me of when I first started in photography. When I left college I moved to Houston, Texas and round about in the mid to late 90s, I decided that I wanted to know what was going on in the neighborhoods and I wanted to photograph rappers, because at that time, in the hip hop culture, it was called gangsta rap.
I felt that night at the time, though, just reflecting back, I felt that from the civil rights movement to the black power movement. I feel that the movement that came next was hip hop culture because they were talking about what was going on in the community: police brutality, death. Gangsta rap is the one, like you know Scarface, some of the students probably too young to know these groups, I’m pretty sure, you know Ice Cube, he’s in the media right now for what he’s trying to do. Ice Cube, Scarface.
I did not really know a lot about photography but I used to go into the neighborhoods and hang out and started photographing. And I said, “I want to photograph rappers because I want to know what’s going on.” One of my first images as I shot that you see here is J ROC. Aggravated J ROC. That was his name. And I went over to the house because I was asking the person that was managing them, I said, “Why do I have to come over to the house?” He says, “Come over to the house.” When I got there, there was a large group of young black males and my curiosity…I went into the house. I was very young, naive.
I asked him, “Why were they in the house? What are they doing?” and then immediately I saw J ROC — that’s the one that’s in the white, they call those Dickies back in the day—and he had just got out of jail for something that he did not do.
This was an album cover, believe it or not, they came out with their guns and I’m looking at them like, “are those real” and they looked at me and they said, “Where you come from, a white girl in a black body?” And so that was my entry into the hip hop culture. I was known as the person to photograph them.
This image right here is Class-C. I photographed him. And back then it was film, it wasn’t digital. I had a film, and that was my last roll on the film. And I didn’t know what to do. And I told Class-C, I said, “Why don’t you point the gun at me?” He said, ”You want me to point this gun at you?” I said point the gun at me, and he took that gun and you went like there. And that was my last shot of him.
This is the entry of me moving into the art world. Keep in mind, I didn’t go to school for the arts, I majored in textile design. I had a friend that was an artist, and when he saw the portraits that I was doing, he was saying that you need to be in a show and I’m bringing a curator over here to look at your work and I’m like okay. This image right here, Scarface, he’s known for the Geto Boys, Scarface and the Geto Boys, and his CD called The Diary.
And this is Ice Cube with Scarface. I was photographing the set on…I’ve forgot the name of the video right now. But what I wanted to explain to you is about my entry into the art world. When the curator came and he saw the work. He looked at me. He looked at the work, he says, “I thought you was going to have some cute fashion images.” He said, “Did you do this work?” I say, Yes, I did.
I was in the show up three other women that have received their MFA’s. How I presented this work, and these are the portraits of these hip hop artists, I went into the store and got basketball shoe boxes and I spray painted them all black on the inside and outside and I placed the images in the box. At the time, my thinking was, I want people to really look at the images, so they’re small and very intimate. The curator, called me on the evening of the show, and he said, “Sheila. Where are you?” He says, “You need to get down here.” And I said, “I’m not coming down there.” because keep in mind, I told you earlier, I was shy. I’m shy.
And I said, “A photographs speaks for itself. Why do I need to come down there and talk about that?” He said, “Sheila, can you please come?” So, I came, and when I entered the door there was people at the door who wanted to talk to me and I was very, very nervous about it.
And one thing that they wanted to ask me, with the image I showed you with Class-C, is, “Did you ask him? Did he have a bullet in the gun?” And I said, “No, I did not ask. I just wanted to get the shot.”
So that was my entry into the art world and immediately, about maybe six months later, I left Texas heading to go to California, but end up in Atlanta, because my aunt had passed, and that’s how my career really started in the art world is coming to Atlanta. My father, he saw a lot of the photographing that I was doing and he was saying that you need to go to school, so he put me through grad school. And that’s where I received my MFA in photography.
So when I got to grad school, I didn’t know this at the time, but the way I see and I shoot, I was always creating narratives about social, political and historical context that was not often seen in visual culture, even in the media and our propaganda based platforms. The imagery I present and capture of culture, and sometimes counterculture, challenge these ideals about narratives that are controlled by Western thought. I’m so glad that I went to school to receive my MFA because it opened up a whole ‘nother world for me. I really didn’t understand at the time about how black bodies were looked upon. The images that I showed you in the hip hop culture – and the hip hop culture, a lot of times, I’m thinking, oh, you know, young, these are cool images — but when other cultures see this imagery, they think of the black male of those stereotypes, the challenges of thug and all of that. And I did not realize that what I was putting out, that that is some of the imagery that other people saw, beyond those images as hip hop artists.
In school I started doing a lot of research. And I started thinking about stories that challenged the perceptions when it came to black bodies and I immediately start thinking about coming to the south, it was so different for me. My parents are from the south, but I was not raised in the South. And my hair is natural and this was back in 2000 and you would think that my natural hair, that people would accept that and up until now in 2020, we have seen a lot of stories about Blacks going to school, or to companies and want to wear their natural hair, which this is the natural hair.
And so I started thinking about Black women and how did they think, how did they feel about their bodies. I started researching the Barbie doll because she is a very iconic image in Western culture and everybody, people of color and mostly every woman have played with that Barbie doll. I feel that the Barbie doll has a sense of causing wanting to assimilate, This image right here is one of the original Barbie dolls: the hair, the blue eyes. Part of those eyes come from the Geechee woman in China, but she represents the what you call the ideal body.
What I started doing was bringing women into my studio and photographing them, and start morphing the Barbie dolls with the women. I’m basically talking about blurring the lines between reality and non-reality. And you see this image right here of a Barbie doll and it’s stamped 1999 Indonesia, and she’s wearing dreads. This work was my thesis. A lot of people were very surprised about this, but this was my thesis coming out of grad school.
And once I graduated I started thinking about the black communities, besides the communities that are in urban, marginalized communities of blacks, because a lot of that imagery is being projected in the media. So I turned my camera towards suburbia. Because at that time, in 2005, 2004 in the art world, a lot of photographers were talking about suburbia. But I didn’t see imagery of African Americans. So I wanted to talk about the invisibility of African Americans in suburbia. And I call this work Suburbia.
This is the work that put me made me national, I won my first award. Back then, it was called the Santa Fe Prize award. I had to speak before like publishers, curators — 300 people — and I was so nervous behind that, because before I had to do my speech, I had to let curators, photo editors, and art consultants look at my work and actually critique it.
And by surprise — we live in the 21st century — 90% of them told me that I did not have enough signifiers in the work to show that these were black homes, and you obviously see a woman laying in her bed reading Business Week, the future of technology. And I was told, “oh, I see books. I don’t see TV.” So it really started me because I was also told that, “Why didn’t you call it Black suburbia?”
And the reason why I’m bringing this up because a lot of times when it comes to African American artists, we’ve
been told, Why are you always talking about identity? Why are you always talking about Blackness? This body of work, that’s what I was challenging to do, what I wanted to do was to show universal commonality amongst all people. That was one of the reasons why I did not call it Black Suburbia, African American suburbia. I want to show you the common thread that runs through all of us. I was totally surprised about the comments that I was getting from this work and it showed me how even though Black, those perceptions of me is projected on me when I really wanted to talk about suburbia. And these people happen to be Black.
My mind is always processing what I see in in popular culture and it seems like a lot of times people will say, “All of your work looks different.” Visually, it may look different, but there’s a common thread that runs through this work that’s the same. And right after I won the award for Suburbia, I started thinking about the millennial generation. Why, because this is the generation that is the biggest generation since the base in history. They’re bigger than the baby boomers. My parents are from the Silent Generation and the Generation X and it’s a more diverse generation. ‘Round about in 2007, President Obama, he wasn’t president at the time, was thinking about running for office and I wanted to know what the millenniums thought about America. Because when you think about me. I’m an adult now when the young people, when we’re young…nobody can tell the young people anything. People always looking at young people like, they don’t know what they’re talking about and especially this generation, the only thing that they’re really interested in is technology and branding and all of that. And I’m like, I beg to differ, I do believe that they have an interest in America and
what’s going on. So I decided to get a flag and I started asking a couple people that I knew. I said, “I’m doing a new body of work and I want you to come into the studio and I want you to tell me what does America mean to you in the 21st century? And I hand them the flag and they did whatever they wanted to do with it.
And this is Colin. I traveled across most of the country with this body of work because I received a major grant from the Aetna Foundation to do this body of work. Actually, in all of my work, I always start with my work and then people, curators come to me like, “oh, I need to help you.” But this is Colin and I was in Winston, South Carolina — very, very quiet. He reminded me a lot of me. He did not say much. And all I do, I am the observer, I don’t tell anybody what to do. The flag means different things for each individual, and Colin folded that flag up — you see it in a square — and laid it nicely down, and put his hands in his pocket and looked away. That was my first image, and I knew then, that’s what it was. I’m not going to explain all of this because I don’t know how much time I have.
I had my first solo show in 2003 with this with this body of work. And this is Jenny, she is from China – I photographed her in California. She talked about how she felt in America, how she didn’t feel like she belonged and she said that she came over to this country at the age of six, and she wondered if she never would have come, what would her life would have been like. And I think that you could pick that up. She’s kind of divided with this image.
I thought this was very interesting how this individual wore a shirt that says, “get out of my space.” And keep in mind this work was all done in between 2006 and 2008 and it is so relavant right now, so relavent right now. And this is Nicole and she talked about the birth of a nation.
With this body of work, called Young Americans, I received a commission from the Boston University and they wanted me to create work around the election now in 2020. I received the commission earlier on, and the pandemic happened. And so I was supposed to be involved for like two months and I couldn’t come down and I was like, as an artist now, I had to challenge myself: how I’m going to produce this work. And I started thinking about my young Americans. I started thinking about the 2020 State of the Union address about, make America great again. And I really started thinking about the young people that I photographed, these sitters, and what they were talking about then is so relevant now and with the university.
This is a still image, but what I produced for the university
at Mugar Memorial Library, I appropriated the images of my young American series. I was thinking about women because I got the idea from Nicole about rebirth. I feel that there’s more women than ever that’s running for office, you have mothers whose children have died from police brutality that are running for city council, running for Congress. And I feel that young women and women, period, are the gatekeepers that are really going to push this country forward.
I printed these images up on aluminum about 30 by 40. I love to collaborate. I collaborated with the BU students through virtual. We did a lot of lecture, did a lot of talking. We talked about America, the elections, and I took their quotes and I made a movie. These images of the text is moving. And there’s an image –I don’t know if you can see it this in the background — and they’re projected onto the aluminum. This was my piece, and I called it The Rebirth.
George Floyd brought us together.
And with young Americans, I feel that my work is part of activism. You know, I’ve never thought about it that way, but it really is. And so my first show was in the museum, but in 2012, a guerilla street curator by the name of Key (he’s in Boston right now I have to tell you about that a little bit later), she told me that I needed to take my work out to the streets because my work speaks to the masses of the people. This image that you see before you, it was at a historical building that was closed. It was in Atlanta, and [these images] are about 30 feet high. We wheat pasted the images on the wall. And it’s not like we’re haphazardly putting images on the walls, we. were actually
curating the area. This historical building is referencing Martin Luther King and the civil rights leaders who went to this school. The school is called the David T Harris School. So it shows you how as an artist and in my work, how it moves in and out in different layerings of a museum. Now it’s at the BU library in 2020 and this work was done in 2012.
Now I want to talk to you about my father. My father is very influential in my life. It was my father, my mother too, but it was really my father. He’s a Vietnam vet. He served his country. And he is the one that would always nurture me, buying me books. He kept all of our siblings in museums and he really wanted us to know about different cultures. We traveled like every two to three years. And my father and my mother grew up in a little town called Waycross, Georgia, four hours away from Atlanta. They were 18, 19 years old, your age, and they have to endure the trauma of Jim Crow era of the white signs and the black signa. This image that you see before you is, women, children aunts, and mothers who are coming from the church in Alabama where the four little girls were bombed and they were killed and this is the generational trauma that black bodies have to endure in this country. And it seemed like it’s nonstop. So when the death of Trayvon came about, I really started thinking about young people again and you know what, it’s really gonna take young people to really change this country.
I started reaching out to some of the unknown civil rights leaders that live in Atlanta, because I wanted to know who they were. Because I always say this, we know about Martin Luther King, John Lewis, but we don’t know about the others that were in the movement because it just don’t take leaders. It takes all of us. It’s like an orchestra where everybody is playing these different parts.
I did not know this was going to be a series, 1960 Now, but I started going to my studio with the elders and started photographing portraits of them. And this is Dr. Roslyn Pope, who authored An Appeal for Human Rights. She went to school at Spelman, the black college here in Atlanta. She was 20 years old when she authored An Appeal for Human Rights. And this is Mr. Lonnie King, who started the Atlanta student movement where they did the sit-ins here in Atlanta. I’m telling you, I learned so much about the movement versus the narratives that I have read in school. It was through the lens of the civil rights leaders versus what we see in the books because some of that stuff is, for lack of better words, whitewashed.
So I started photographing the elders first and then I started thinking about the young –I call them young visionaries. This is Bree Newsome, who took down the Confederate flag. And this is Mikko, he is from the LGBTQ community. And that’s the community that was the driving force with Black Lives Matter.
And so when I was taking these portraits, moving from generational, from the elders to the young people. I felt that I needed to go to the ground to find out what was going on in the communities, because, like I explained to you earlier about my process of how we are seeing projected images from the media and how it’s being used as propaganda where it is showing you the stereotype and all of that. And so I started photographing in Atlanta. In this image, you see ‘reclaim hashtag reclaim Martin Luther King.’ It was 2015, and Mikko called me and says, “Sheela we getting ready to shut down Martin Luther King parade” and I said, “You guys are going to shut [it] down?’, and they say, “Yes, we are.”
And they shut it down and people were very, very upset. If you could have been there, you could see the individuals with their children along the line with the marchers, and they shut it down and the elders were really mad and told them that if Martin Luther King was here, he would not like what they’ve been doing. And they said, “Yes, he will. Yes, he will because he was about resistance, and that’s resistance.” That’s why they had the hashtag Reclaim Martin Luther King Day, because they are tired of the commercialization of Martin Luther King. ‘I have a dream’– he was more than a dream. He was about resistance, about keeping on the fight because when he was living, he was not liked and that’s how he was murdered.
I travel, I started in Atlanta. I went to Ferguson– this image right here is Ferguson– to Baton Rouge to DC. And in Baltimore. I was in Baltimore. I was there that Sunday when Freddie Gray had passed in the hospital and I went straight into the communities and start documenting
I’m just going through these. So, John Lewis. Black Trans Lives Matter. And when I’m out photographing the protests, I am not just clicking on the shutter of my camera to try to get a shot. I’m actually waiting for moments. I actually purposely shot in black and white. And that’s why the work is called 1960Now. And I purposely shot square, and with a lot of this work, I look at this work as portraiture versus being protests images. You see an image of a black male and tears is running down his eyes. You may not see that too much on the screen. This is Janelle Monáe our protesting and Lana with her song “Say Our Name.”
And this young lady, we were out to like 12 o’clock midnight in Atlanta, too, and what compelled me to take this photograph of her: I saw the hurt. I saw the pain and she was holding up a liberation flag while standing on an American flag. But I chose not to photograph that because what drew me into her was her facial expression. And of course, I’m the journalist, photographing from the liberation to the American flag because when I’m on the ground on the ground, I see, I feel the pain. I see the fear. It’s just a lot going on. There’s a lot of trauma. There’s a lot of mental illness, too. I think a lot of times when we’re seeing these images that come across our tablets or the TV, we’re not really understanding the full scope of what’s going on in these communities. We see we love our people and we will be here until justice is served.
This is Ferguson.
So now when 2020 came, 2020 vision, George Floyd happened. And when I experience that on TV–because I saw it on TV– I cry. And I cry because I’ve been documenting since 2013 and this has been happening to black bodies since the beginning. Since my ancestors has been brought over here. And can you imagine their trauma? Can you imagine John Lewis’s trauma? But when I saw George Floyd, and when he cried out and said, “Mama,” I cry. I feel that globally, people use George Floyd as a symbol of change and I feel that this is a star because, I’m just saying this — this is from me –is that George Floyd ignited protests in 50 states –50 states and in 12 countries globally.
I personally did not want to go out and photograph anymore protest images because I felt like, okay, I have authored a book about 1960Now about the death of black bodies. I’ve traveled nationally, internationally talking about this body of work and I’m saying to myself, does our society really want change, because what they’re manifesting and what they’re doing is not about change. I was really discouraged as an artist. And I said, I am not going to go out and photograph, because I’m tired.
I’m tired. I didn’t realize how traumatized I was, but however something – a little voice – said, Sheila, you got to go.
And so, I didn’t go the first day that all of this happened, that Friday, with George Floyd, but I went the second day. I called the mothers from Atlanta, whose children have fallen from police brutality and they talked to me about, they were given a press conference at the state capitol with state representatives because they were trying to work on this bill. And this image that you see before you are the mothers and the congress people.
These are all recent images that I have been shooting. This is Rayshard (Brooks) in Atlanta that was shot at the Wendy’s here in Atlanta, and what I tried to do is to find not just photographing the protests and their marching. This image that you see are our black males that decided that they wanted to do something. They lived in suburbia. They said that we want to suit up and we want to march from the historical Ebenezer Baptist Church to Martin Luther King’s birthplace. I thought, even though the media may not be interested, I think this is so powerful because we don’t see this. We all we see the other. And this is an image that I shot in Atlanta, too. This is one of the Congress women; stop killing us.
What I look for is something allowing other protests, just not the protests. I’m trying to show you a different way, even though that these are protest images.
And my last shoot so far was about three weeks ago when the verdict came from Brionna (Taylor), a black woman. It’s like, we must protect black women and I went out in Atlanta. I thought it was so emotional because the women, they cry because they really had hoped that something was going to happen and Brianna is a woman, and she’s a black woman and nothing was done.
Black women matter.
And so when John Lewis passed, in Atlanta, you know, this is his home, I went to the memorial and I photographed that.
And that’s going to lead you into the last part of my talk. I’ve been thinking a lot about what we call change, about racism. about all of that and last year in December, I received a call from a photo editor from the Washington Post and they commissioned 10 photographers to do a photo essay and they wanted us to talk about racism. You know, at that time, I was just so exhausted. I’m like, “How much more can I do?”
And so I chose not to photograph protest images. But I don’t live too far from Stone Mountain Park. I don’t know if anybody knows about the history of Stone Mountain Park. It is one of the largest granites in in the country and in the second coming of the KKK, they went up to Stone Mountain in 1915 and burned a flag and read chapters Roman I:12 and that was the second coming of the KKK at Stone Mountain.
And so the mountain is very beautiful; 4 million people come to the park every year. They still fly the Confederate flag. They have three Confederate generals carved in stone, and I’ll show you that in a minute. But these are some of the images that I photographed. This is actually my father’s Bible and I swear to you when I laid that Bible down, picked up my camera, that page moved to chapter 12 and where the second coming of the KKK was reading that out of the chapter. This is the granite in the stone. This is the Confederate flag.
They have slave homes there too and I thought this was very interesting to see a cotton butt sitting on a table of the slaves. I thought about my ancestors back then with cotton, would they allow them to have that in their slave homes? Now this is the carving of the three generals and I don’t remember their names, but this mountain is very beautiful. If you can see it, to your very left there’s a trolley, instead of walking the mountain, you can take a trolley up. They give you the history about it but they really don’t talk about the Confederacy, because this memorial was made with the Daughters of the Confederates that wanted to keep that alive.
I wanted to talk about, through these landscapes, where the root of racism come from. These images are like life size. I want you to walk into them. I want you to feel them and they’re beautiful. But to realize that this is the root of the racism, because by the end of 1930 there was over, either 3 million or 4 million members of the KKK, and it was not only in the South. It was in the north and the south.
Also in 2018 I was approached by an art organization in Atlanta, and they wanted to commission artists to work on the legacy of Atlanta and the civil rights movement because, you know, Atlanta is known for the civil rights movement. And I didn’t know at the time the organization was actually working with the NFL, and for me if I would have known that in the beginning, I actually would not have worked with the NFL. Bbecause at that time, remember the issue of Colin Kaepernick taking a knee — I didn’t want to be any part of it. And I was asked to come to the press conference and that’s when I found out about everything. The mayor was there the NFL, Commissioner, the host committee for the NFL, and the art organization and I my mind. I was like, “oh my god, they did bamboozle me, what I’m going to do. I’m not gonna do anything.” I was so mad.
And so I had to go home and really think about it. And a lot of people call me because they saw me on TV and they said, Sheila, you need to do this because we know that you’re probably going to do a protest within a protest with this. So I decided to do it. And the image that you see right now is a beautiful portrait image by Richard Avedon — everyone should know Richard Avedon, white male in the 20th century, very well known. He’s known for his portraiture, but he came to Atlanta in 1963 to photograph the leaders of the civil rights movement. And this is Julian Bond, holding his nine-month-old daughter, along with the SNCC students who were fighting for voting rights, like what we’re doing right now.
And I said, “oh my god, I want to recreate this image.” So I decided to invite some of the mothers from out of town that was not living in Atlanta. The woman in the middle, oh, my god, I can’t think – “I can’t breathe” – this is the mother. Eric Garner Eric Garner, and then the woman to your left at the very end is Tamir Rice’s mother from Cleveland, and the woman in the back with the abstraction little coat dress that she has on, that’s Oscar Grant’s mother. The rest of the mothers are from Atlanta, whose children have fallen from police brutality. I rented out an Airbnb. I brought all the mothers together. And I learned so much from them.
I didn’t know there was trauma within trauma within trauma with them — in the mothers and I give you one example. Some of the mothers, not these mothers, but I was told that some mothers are very upset with the other mothers because some mothers are getting more attention than the other mothers. I was like, do you see the trauma in that? And the woman that’s the eldest, that’s Miss Dr. Roslyn Pope, who wrote the Appeal for Human Rights, I invited her to come. We cry, we laugh. I hired a cook, and it was like that was joy for us, even within that trauma.
This is the mural that I produced in Atlanta, Georgia. Then and now is Julian Bond, holding his nine month old child, her name is Phyllis Bond, she is living she saw that, and she was so amazed to see her father, and he’s holding her and to the right, you see the mothers. You can see Eric Garner’s mother, I’m telling you, they always say the last picture — this was second to the last picture and I knew that this was the photograph. She just automatically opened up her hands. With child and not with child.
So that’s who I am, in conclusion, as an artist. I do feel that with my work that I could bring awareness, even if some people don’t want to change, but at least bring awareness and another understanding from a perspective of a Black person, ‘cause for far too long, we have known of ourselves and you’ve known of ourselves through the white man’s narrative. And thank you.
We have a few questions. Do you have time to take some questions from students in the audience.
00:51:34.470 –> 00:51:46.020
Margaret Pezalla-Granlund: And our first question is from Jalen she’s one of our students. And he says, first of all, thank you so much. She left for showing us your work.
00:51:46.920 –> 00:52:00.600
Margaret Pezalla-Granlund: As a young black artist, you’re truly such an inspiration for me. My question to you is, do you feel as though you have an obligation to to create political art or activists art as a black woman artists.
00:52:01.200 –> 00:52:11.100
Margaret Pezalla-Granlund: And if so, have you ever thought about creating more more work that is less representational or less focused on portraying the black identity.
00:52:12.900 –> 00:52:25.380
anita allyn: That’s what I was speaking about earlier as a black person we are constantly projected on because I feel that an artist any artist. I don’t care. The white, black,
00:52:25.740 –> 00:52:39.690
anita allyn: You know, yellow or whatever. We’re going to talk based on our perspective in our passion because that’s what we know. But we happen to be black and everything is political.
00:52:40.560 –> 00:52:47.070
anita allyn: And it’s not. I mean, when I when I did the suburbia work that I spoke to to you about earlier.
00:52:47.370 –> 00:52:56.280
anita allyn: I was looking at that as universal commonality. That’s one reason why, if you look at the body of work. I didn’t really show
00:52:56.640 –> 00:53:07.710
anita allyn: Black folks. And if you did see him. That was the woman that’s ruling in our band because I didn’t want you to really focus on that okay so i think is
00:53:08.610 –> 00:53:14.610
anita allyn: I think in society because especially in America we’re there.
00:53:15.330 –> 00:53:28.980
anita allyn: We’re so caught up on labeling and the physical of it that we can’t get past it. And the only thing that I could tell you to do do was from your heart and you know who you are. I have the confidence of
00:53:29.340 –> 00:53:42.240
anita allyn: I know who I am. If you want to call me a black photographer, you want to call me an activist or political so be it. But I know what I’m doing. I am talking about mankind. I’m talking about humanity and I’m
00:53:42.660 –> 00:53:50.700
anita allyn: Happened to be black. Because when a white person is talking about suburbia. Do they say, oh, the work is critical.
00:53:50.850 –> 00:53:51.510
anita allyn: Or is it
00:53:51.570 –> 00:54:01.950
anita allyn: The white folks. No they do not. So don’t get caught up on the labeling do your work because I personally
00:54:02.460 –> 00:54:12.180
anita allyn: Okay, if you look at my Barbie dolls and Barbie dolls from the suburbia even from the young Americans and maybe I’m so naive.
00:54:13.110 –> 00:54:30.600
anita allyn: Now to I never really looked at my work as being political I looked at my work about humanity and who we are in society, and we just caught up on left labels. Just do your work. And I think that you will
00:54:31.290 –> 00:54:47.400
anita allyn: You will come to understand who you are and who society is, you know, because I have come to realization. We just had another shooting of a black male. He was mentally challenged, but he was 12 feet away, and he was still shot.
00:54:47.790 –> 00:54:55.500
anita allyn: I believe that racism is always going to be here. But how are we are, how are we going to
00:54:56.040 –> 00:55:07.500
anita allyn: Progress. From there, because it’s always going to be here and for me as an artist. That’s what I’m challenging right now because with the Commission that I’m doing with pitching the south at the high
00:55:07.890 –> 00:55:29.580
anita allyn: I’m going to talk about the landscape, but I’m going to talk about it differently from the stone mount images that you saw, I want to talk more about the liberation part. Okay. Because we’re all in the sunken hole with all this was going on with the election will be held at that
00:55:30.630 –> 00:55:43.380
anita allyn: And everything is becoming like a blower we becoming numb to it. We have the pandemic and I as an artist is challenging to talk about liberation and I’m talking about the humanity of it.
00:55:43.830 –> 00:55:52.050
anita allyn: So somebody want to say is black. You’re fun, but I know who I am in the confidence of what I’m trying to do.
00:55:54.630 –> 00:55:55.920
Margaret Pezalla-Granlund: Great, thank you.
00:55:56.970 –> 00:56:01.710
Margaret Pezalla-Granlund: We have one more question from anonymous attendee
00:56:02.730 –> 00:56:15.900
Margaret Pezalla-Granlund: As do people sometimes tell you what to photograph or is all your work from your own ideas. Also, are there things that you feel uncomfortable photographing or things that you want to try, but have not
00:56:17.790 –> 00:56:22.230
anita allyn: I’m always photograph what I’ve always wanted to photograph.
00:56:23.430 –> 00:56:36.810
anita allyn: I’m not saying that I am not being sensor something’s I have been censored on but I photograph. What I want to photograph, because my father, I go back to my father has very strong personality.
00:56:37.080 –> 00:56:44.430
anita allyn: When he was growing up in the Jim Crow era. That’s how he got in the service because he spoke his mind.
00:56:44.820 –> 00:56:58.410
anita allyn: And me being his daughter. And I’ll never forget when I was a child in Germany. He always told me to speak the truth because when one door closes. Another one will open. And that’s what I’ve always done
00:56:58.800 –> 00:57:08.490
anita allyn: As in my career as my art as an artist. I’m moving in and out of these situations where I’m able to do street are
00:57:09.570 –> 00:57:25.980
anita allyn: Showing galleries, you know, a lot of companies are looking at me to do a lot of consultant with me right now. And the other question I believe was am I comfortable for shooting anything. No, I’m not.
00:57:27.720 –> 00:57:38.040
anita allyn: But I’m not. I mean, I could tell you recently maybe was a month ago and I wasn’t planning on shooting i was i live in Stone Mountain.
00:57:38.400 –> 00:57:48.990
anita allyn: I was trying to go to the health food store and the roads were blocked off the new Stone Mountain village and what it was. It was a rally. I didn’t know anything about it.
00:57:49.260 –> 00:58:04.860
anita allyn: You had the anti flag out there, you had the white nationalists out there you have the three percenters out there and you had all different diversities of people, mostly black all I’m telling you, 90% of them had aka
00:58:05.910 –> 00:58:20.040
anita allyn: A AK 40 sevens. I get out of my car and the NT for people, the white man, it was a young white young man white nationalists three percenters they will all screaming and yelling at each other.
00:58:20.430 –> 00:58:30.330
anita allyn: I went over there and I told them I started yelling at them. I said, all you guys are doing is yelling at each other. You’re not listening to each other.
00:58:30.750 –> 00:58:45.840
anita allyn: I started talking to them. I didn’t have any fear are afraid in my heart. I don’t know where I think I get that from my father, but to your answer. No, I don’t have a problem of photographing anything at all.
00:58:48.150 –> 00:59:03.990
anita allyn: I know you have to be careful out there, though. But yeah, I think the hip hop culture of shooting gangsta rap and me being around that culture really is up doing I’m doing a 360 degrees, it really
00:59:05.280 –> 00:59:09.360
anita allyn: toughen me up to deal what I’m dealing with now.
00:59:12.360 –> 00:59:28.020
Margaret Pezalla-Granlund: Okay, thank you. Um, I had one question also. I’m like, I was I’m really amazed to see like the images that we see on the screen now of your photographs just blown up huge like building size.
00:59:29.580 –> 00:59:40.050
Margaret Pezalla-Granlund: And thinking about what the experience of seeing those photographs must be for the people who live there because they really become part of your environment and part of your life that you see every day.
00:59:40.440 –> 00:59:53.070
Margaret Pezalla-Granlund: And I’m wondering, like, what, what do you hope the people in that neighborhood or see those photographs of the day, what do you hope they take away from them. What do you hope they remember from your images.
00:59:54.150 –> 00:59:55.350
anita allyn: This particular
00:59:56.760 –> 01:00:01.830
anita allyn: It’s not wheat paste. This is actually put up with vinyl and about 30 feet high.
01:00:02.790 –> 01:00:15.930
anita allyn: We keep an eye curated this and we purposely put it in this area in the community is city council’s right around the corner. The courthouses right around the corner.
01:00:16.530 –> 01:00:27.570
anita allyn: The police station is the jail is right around the corner. So you have these officials these politicians everybody that’s coming to this parking lot.
01:00:27.960 –> 01:00:43.350
anita allyn: Looking at these imagery and they of course they know who Julian Bond is but they might not necessarily know who the women are, but I believe that everybody knows who the women are and for me.
01:00:44.760 –> 01:01:01.890
anita allyn: What I hope is that within all of my work because a lot of times as adults we have. We come from different ideologies and we see things totally different. But with all of our work. I hope that
01:01:03.840 –> 01:01:19.200
anita allyn: It will help young people to understand even better, because I think sometimes younger people have more of an open mind and I believe that generations and C is going to be the driving force behind it.
01:01:19.530 –> 01:01:25.530
anita allyn: Because I don’t think in society. We have any empathy anymore. It’s all about
01:01:26.370 –> 01:01:35.130
anita allyn: Me, me, me, me, me, you know, and we’re not listening to each other. So I hope through because we live in a visual culture.
01:01:35.460 –> 01:01:47.790
anita allyn: And I hope through the work that I do in the visuals that I do was sparked something in anybody you know it may not be a change, but really start getting
01:01:48.180 –> 01:02:00.180
anita allyn: People to start thinking are to create a dialogue to start a dialogue, for example in Boston to speak upon this because the work some the work is going up now.
01:02:01.320 –> 01:02:11.550
anita allyn: In addition to the work that I did at Boston University in the library. We’re actually putting up 13 images of women.
01:02:11.880 –> 01:02:27.240
anita allyn: In Boston limb inland the county inland and Boston and it’s all women and what really inspired me. I’m going to be on it live with her a young woman by the age of 18
01:02:27.930 –> 01:02:42.000
anita allyn: from Puerto Rico Puerto Rico and she has a lot to say we don’t listen to young people and she has galvanized all of her friends in Boston, with the with these young women.
01:02:42.510 –> 01:02:53.850
anita allyn: My young American images that we’re putting up of nothing but women and they are so excited in the adults are listened to them. I think we need to listen to the young people.
01:02:54.180 –> 01:03:07.440
anita allyn: We forget how we, as adults, forget how we were we were young. There’s we’re smarter. I mean, young people are smarter than then then you think it may not look like it but they are
01:03:09.450 –> 01:03:10.800
Margaret Pezalla-Granlund: I think that’s very true.
01:03:13.140 –> 01:03:16.560
Margaret Pezalla-Granlund: You have to have any, any last thoughts.
01:03:18.000 –> 01:03:26.760
anita allyn: No, I just want to say thank you and thank you for listening and I hope that someone
01:03:27.180 –> 01:03:37.980
anita allyn: That I inspire you know to willing to open up their minds and to listen, even if they don’t change, but to listen because that’s not that we don’t do a lot of that right now.
01:03:38.550 –> 01:03:55.170
anita allyn: At all. And it’s going to be interesting to see how we all going to move in after well in the coming future and after the election because it is a challenge. I know it’s a challenge, but we just have to keep
01:03:55.620 –> 01:04:11.160
anita allyn: We just got to keep pushing all of us. Gotta keep pushing and I think that all of us need to open our minds to try to understand each other because we really know of each other through the media. We really don’t know each other at all.
01:04:13.740 –> 01:04:22.530
Margaret Pezalla-Granlund: Well, thank you, thank you so much for joining us. This was so generous and we really appreciate it. And we were really happy to have you. So