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Home » Public Programs » Online Exhibits » Framing Identity: Representations of Empowerment and Resilience in the Black Experience

Framing Identity: Representations of Empowerment and Resilience in the Black Experience

Framing Identity:  Representations of Empowerment and Resilience in the Black Experience

When was the last time you took a photograph that was not a spontaneous selfie?

How did you prepare yourself for this moment in front of the camera?

Did you select your clothes with care, or style your hair in a particular fashion?

How did you make those decisions, and how do those choices create a representation of your identity?

Before we step in front of the camera, we make choices on how we want the world to view us.  The camera allows us to define and control our self-representation. We utilize this technology to create an image of the person we want to be instead of the assumptions which society projects onto us. The concept of identity is not a single reality that defines us, but a series of personal experiences, traditions, and innovations which contribute to cultural advancements. The lectures of Frederick Douglass embody this concept.

Douglass frequently lectured about the potential of photography as a tool for social change. As an accomplished writer and orator, he would often state how photography was an innovative tool that allowed a person to construct an empowered self-image. Douglass also connected photography to the evolution of a community. A single image can incorporate our creativity, accomplishments, as well as obstacles that inspire us to connect to humanity’s shared existence. Therefore, this exhibition aims to explore the ways creative intellectuals express their identity and community through portraits, photography and literature.

Image: Frederick Douglass carte de visite, William Brearley Autograph Album.