Sep 252020
 archive : 2020

Photography, History, and Systems of Power

Join us for a conversation looking back at the origins of photography–how it has been used as a tool of colonialism, and how this legacy still appears today, both culturally and institutionally.

Presenters: John Edwin Mason William (Will) Wilson Sama Alshaibi

Moderators: Laura Saunders

Location: Online

Presented by:

  • The Photo Bill of Rights

Supported by:

  • Phillip and Edith Leonian Foundation
  • PhotoWings

Photoville 2020 Talks On-demand recordings are made possible in partnership with PhotoWings with additional support by the Phillip and Edith Leonian Foundation.

Join us for a conversation looking back at the origins of photography–how it has been used as a tool of colonialism, and how this legacy still appears today, both culturally and institutionally.

We will speak with writers, historians, and photographers who use their work to examine visual culture by reckoning with systems of power and representation in the medium’s history, in order to ask what lessons we might take away for the future.

Presenter Bios

  • John Edwin Mason

    John Edwin Mason

    John Edwin Mason teaches African history and the history of photography at the University of Virginia. He published many books and articles on South African social and cultural history, before turning his attention to photography. He is now at work on a book about the acclaimed photographer, writer, and filmmaker Gordon Parks. Mason is also a documentary photographer, and he is the author of the photo-book, One Love, Ghoema Beat: Inside the Cape Town Carnival. He is on the boards of The Everyday Projects, Women Photograph, and The Aftermath Project.

  • William (Will) Wilson

    William (Will) Wilson

    William (Will) Wilson is a Diné photographer who spent his formative years living in the Navajo Nation. Born in San Francisco in 1969, Wilson studied photography at the University of New Mexico (Dissertation Tracked MFA in Photography, 2002) and Oberlin College (BA, Studio Art and Art History, 1993). In 2007, Wilson won the Native American Fine Art Fellowship from the Eiteljorg Museum, and in 2010 was awarded a prestigious grant from the Joan Mitchell Foundation. Wilson has held visiting professorships at the Institute of American Indian Arts (1999-2000), Oberlin College (2000-01), and the University of Arizona (2006-08). From 2009 to 2011, Wilson managed the National Vision Project, a Ford Foundation funded initiative at the Museum of Contemporary Native Arts in Santa Fe, and helped to coordinate the New Mexico Arts Temporary Installations Made for the Environment (TIME) program on the Navajo Nation. Wilson is part of the Science and Arts Research Collaborative (SARC) which brings together artists interested in using science and technology in their practice with collaborators from Los Alamos National Laboratory and Sandia Labs as part of the International Symposium on Electronic Arts, 2012 (ISEA). Recently, Wilson completed an exhibition and artist residency at the Denver Art Museum and is currently the King Fellow artist in residence at the School of Advanced Research in Santa Fe, NM.

  • Sama Alshaibi

    Sama Alshaibi

    Sama Alshaibi’s photographs, videos and immersive installations examine the mechanisms of fragmentation in the aftermath of war and exile. They feature a female figure, often her own, that references a complex site of struggle and identification. Her work also complicates the coding of the Arab female body and confronts an image history of photographs and moving images through an Arab feminist perspective Her monograph, Sama Alshaibi: Sand Rushes In was published by Aperture, NYC. It features her 8-year Silsila series (debuted at the 55th Venice Biennale), which probes the human dimensions of migration, borders, and environmental demise.

    Alshaibi’s twenty solo exhibitions and over 150 international group exhibitions include the State of The Art 2020 (Crystal Bridges, Arkansas), 13th Cairo International Biennale (Egypt, 2019), Ayyam Gallery (Dubai, 2019), Artpace (San Antonio, 2019), Pen + Brush (NYC, 2019), 2018 Breda Photo Festival (Netherlands), American University Museum (Washington D.C., 2018), 2017 Honolulu Biennial, Marta Herford Museum (Germany, 2017), Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art (NY, 2017), SMoCA (Scottsdale, 2016), Arab American National Museum (Michigan 2015) and MoMA (NYC, 2012). Alshaibi was born in Basra, Iraq and currently resides in Tucson, Arizona, where she is Professor of Photography, Video and Imaging at University of Arizona.

Moderator Bios

  • Laura Saunders

    Laura Saunders

    Laura Saunders is a photographer and filmmaker working in southern Arizona and southwest Virginia. She graduated with distinction from the Documentary Photography & Photojournalism Masters Program at The London College of Communication in 2011. Her work deals with environmental extraction in rural Appalachia, as well as stories rooted in the historical understanding of forced migration, for-profit incarceration, and the growing industry of U.S. border militarization.

    She is a member of the Juntos photo cooperative, Women Photograph, and an IWMF fellow. Her work has been exhibited in the U.K. and U.S., and with organizations including the Bronx Documentary Center and Looking at Appalachia. Her work can be found in The InterceptDer SpiegelThe GuardianHigh Country News, and Politico, among others.


  • The Photo Bill of Rights

    The Photo Bill of Rights

    The Photo Bill of Rights is authored by a group of individuals from grassroots organizations working toward dismantling harmful practices in the visual journalism and editorial media industry: Authority Collective, Color Positive, Diversify Photo, The Everyday Projects, Juntos, the National Press Photographers Association, Natives Photograph, & Women Photograph. powered by Verizon Media Immersive.

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