In spring 2021, students in Jane'a Johnson's course Photography and Race: Blackness and The Self were assigned to delve into a topic of their choosing. The course examined how identity—individual and in relation to others—is constructed through photographic media, and what that construct has to do with concepts of the self, history, and global politics more broadly. Students engaged with a range of texts exploring how photography has operated historically and in the present, and with works in the museum's collection by artists like Zanele Muholi, Kennedi Carter, Andre Bradley, Dawoud Bey, Lorna Simpson, Adrian Piper, and more.
As a final project, the students were assigned to write an article drawing on these themes for the museum's website. A selection, published here, show how they connected course content to their own interests, analyzed the world around them, and articulated institutional critiques.
Artist and student Jade Cannata creates a chart describing the racial demographics of three all-inclusive resorts in locations with strong historical connections to colonialism, showing the effects of history on the present.
RISD student Tito Crichton-Stuart analyzes Robert Mapplethorpe’s exoticization of the black body and proposes potential acquisitions that could serve as counterpoints in the collection.
RISD student Abena Gyampo traces the history of the hypersexualization of black bodies from the early 19th century to contemporary popular culture.