Listening to Images
Tina M. Campt is Claire Tow and Ann Whitney Olin Professor of Africana and Women's, Gender and Sexuality Studies and Director of the Barnard Center for Research on Women at Barnard College, and the author of Image Matters: Archive, Photography, and the African Diaspora in Europe, also published by Duke University Press.
Black Futurity and the Echo of Premature Death
The coda grapples with the grammar of black futurity at a crucial historical juncture that has witnessed a string of hauntingly similar killings of unarmed black men at the hands of or in the custody of police. It assesses the frequency of a set of (self-)identification photographs: Tumblr photos tagged with #If They Gunned Me Down, Which Picture Would They Use? Created in response to the proliferation of negative photographic representations of Michael Brown and Trayvon Martin, the photos contrast images of young women and men in graduation caps and gowns, military uniforms, medical scrubs, prom dresses, or coats and ties, with photos of those same individuals performing menacing stereotypes of black urban life. The photos anticipate their sitters’ own premature deaths, refusing to be silenced by the probability of a future violent death they confront on a daily basis in the present. Through these images they fashion a futurity they project beyond their own demise.