15 Jul 2016 12:00 AM | Deleted user

Like a lot of people I’m struggling to find ways to process the shootings starting last month in Orlando through Dallas over the past weekend. Personally, I go to my bookshelves looking for signs of humanity to buoy me up in these times.

Adrian Octavius Walker’s My Lens Our Ferguson is a simple photo-bookwork about the protests following the shooting of Mike Brown in Ferguson, MO. It is a brief but more intimate look at the protests and the events than mass media reported. One image in the middle of the book depicts a parade-like march at near twilight so the people are virtually backlit and made more stark in flat black shapes with animated shadows on the asphalt. One of the African Americans marching raises a sign that reads, “I am an American.”

In the opening of Clarissa Sligh’s photo-bookwork Voyage(r): Tourist Map to Japan on the flight, still uncertain about her desire to travel to Japan, she writes, “As African American/I know nothing about it/Care even less.” Toward the end of the book in a section called The Supper she tells a story about a host who “could hardly wait to tell me how happy he was to have me as a guest in his house and that he had seen the movie Roots which he had thoroughly enjoyed and had found educational. Having grown up a Southern black girl, I smiled and told him graciously that I had seen Shogun and had experienced it in the same way. He laughed and said, ‘Of course that was totally fictionalized.’ ‘Then of course you must understand that Roots was created the same way,’ I replied. We all laughed together as it sank in that Hollywood had provided us with our understanding of each other’s history. But even still it couldn’t prevent Roots and Shogun sitting down to dinner with us.”

The imagery in Voyage(r) is all printed duotone in a range from black, dark purple, indigos and a light blue. It includes Sligh’s travel journal writings, drawings, and found material montaged together with photographs made on the trip. Many are of subjects stereotypical of the Japanese tourist experience—temples, school children, architecture, and sites including a visually violent climax at Hiroshima, which Sligh didn’t want to see but her partner insisted since his was the WWII generation that dropped the bomb. In one spread she uses typographically wavy text overlapping a photo of water assembled together with brush drawings of a Japanese temple to point at a portrait of herself: “There I am with the camera around my neck. How much of what I shoot is to confirm what National Geographic taught me to see?” she asks.

At the near end of Voyage(r) the statement “Stereotypes make it hard to see who you are” is typeset over a close up of Sligh’s closed eyes.

The term stereotype comes from printing, a metal printing plate cast from a mold in another material like plaster or papier-mâché.

It’s the ubiquity and repetition of what is made from a mold cast that creates the blindness.

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