Contributors to the most recent issue of Nka, “Black Portraiture[s]: The Black Body in the West,” offer cutting-edge perspectives on the production and skill of black self-representation, desire, and the exchange of the gaze from the nineteenth century to the present day in fashion, film, art, and the archive. This collection of essays is critical and exciting because of its broad focus on the black portrait and the important aesthetic and ideological issues it continues to engage.
“By featuring some of the most extraordinary writers, historians, artists, and theorists working today we hope this special issue of Nka… enables readers to see that the image remains ever powerful in an age where black lives matter,” editors Cheryl Finley and Deborah Willis write in the introduction to the issue.
Topics in this issue include the impact of slavery on paintings at the Louvre, paintings of black artists and unfinished self-portraits, the uses of portraiture by artists Barkley L. Hendricks and Elizabeth Colomba, black women’s representations in pornography, James Barnor’s career, and photographing the ways in which black bodies exist in Paris and the world. Read the introduction, made freely available, and browse the table-of-contents for more.
The most recent issue of Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa, and the Middle East features an interview with Nomusa Makhubu, a South African photographer.
From the introduction: “Collages of landscape, current occupants, and their ghosts, Nomusa Makhubu’s photographs capture the themes of this special section on apartheid with uncanny precision, and they articulate the possibility of a visual rhetoric to mark South Africa’s haunted present. In three separate photographic series, Makhubu deploys and destabilizes the supposed documentary capacity of photography and its ability to capture a static moment in order to insist on the interleaving of past and present and their inescapable conjunction.” Read the full interview.
In Image Matters, Tina M. Campt traces the emergence of a black European subject by examining how specific black European communities used family photography to create forms of identification and community. At the heart of Campt’s study are two photographic archives, one composed primarily of snapshots of black German families taken between 1900 and 1945, and the other assembled from studio portraits of West Indian migrants to Birmingham, England, taken between 1948 and 1960. Campt’s next book, Listening to Images, will be published in May 2017.
Pictures and Progress, edited by Maurice O. Wallace and Shawn Michelle Smith, explores how, during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, prominent African American intellectuals and activists understood photography’s power to shape perceptions about race and employed the new medium in their quest for social and political justice.
Smith is also the author of At the Edge of Sight, which engages the dynamics of seeing and not seeing, focusing attention as much on the invisible as the visible. Exploring the limits of photography and vision, she asks: What fails to register photographically, and what remains beyond the frame? What is hidden by design, and what is obscured by cultural blindness?
Smith’s Photography on the Color Line provides a rich interpretation of the remarkable photographs W. E. B. Du Bois compiled for the American Negro Exhibit at the 1900 Paris Exposition, revealing the visual dimension of the color line that Du Bois famously called “the problem of the twentieth century.” Photography and the Optical Unconscious, edited by Smith and Sharon Sliwinski, will be published in May 2017.
Feeling Photography, edited by Elspeth H. Brown and Thy Phu, demonstrates the profound effects of feeling on our experiences and understanding of photography. The relationship between race and photography takes center stage in chapter 4, “Skin, Flesh, and the Affective Wrinkles of Civil Rights Photography” by Elizabeth Abel, and chapter 5, “Looking Pleasant, Feeling White: The Social Politics of the Photographic Smile” by Tanya Sheehan.