Photography Now 2019: The Searchers

Isabelle, Lefferts House Brooklyn 2016 Nona Faustine

The Center for Photography at Woodstock is pleased to announce Photography Now 2019, juried by Maurice Berger and Marvin Heiferman. Featured artists include Cynthia Bittenfield, Martha Díaz-Adam, Maureen R. Drennan, Nona Faustine, Luther Konadu, Sara Macel, Jean L. Sousa and Derrick D. Woods-Morrow.

Today, the search for identity—the need to understand and represent who we are and how we see ourselves—is widespread. Each day, we take millions of pictures of ourselves and the world around us in order to explore and carve out a personal space in a digital culture saturated with images. The artists in this exhibition are searchers, too. Their pictures—of themselves, others, and of places—thoughtfully reflect upon how photography itself functions as a search medium, one that enables personal, family, and community lives to be represented, shared and remembered.

In the context of a society that is quick to define and stereotype women, people of color, and members of the LGBTQ community, the artists of Photography Now 2019 celebrate their power as photographers to challenge clichés and find meaning through a variety of strategies. For some, photography functions as a valued tool in detective work and data collection. Others investigate aspects of identity and the construction of personal histories more evocatively. Some of the work focuses on specific relationships, while others challenge stereotypes, such as the historic tendency to represent the black experience largely through the lens of struggle and suffering or the Islamophobia that vilifies traditional Muslim dress and culture.

The Searchers recalls the work of the African American intellectual and activist W. E. B. Du Bois. A century ago, he envisioned the search for identity—as well as the medium of photography—as potent means for reinvention, reappraisal, and personal discovery in the face of a mainstream culture that all too often denigrates people or renders them invisible. Now, new generations of artists embrace photography’s potential to liberate, by portraying themselves, their families, friends, and communities in dynamic images that counter the media culture that we ferociously consume but neither own nor control.

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