Travel & See: Black Diaspora Art Practices since the 1980s
Kobena Mercer is Professor of History of Art and African American Studies at Yale University. He is author of
African Photography in Contemporary Visual Culture
This chapter offers a holistic assessment of interpretive approaches to recently rediscovered African studio photography traditions active from the mid-twentieth century onward. It contrasts Francophone research where a strong emphasis on stylistic features tends to ignore the colonial contexts under which photographers operated, with Anglophone commentary that foregrounds the way African self-representations “answer back” to colonial discourse, yet tends toward an auteurist model that ignores the indeterminacy whereby the photographic image gets opened to multiple appropriations once it travels beyond its originating context as a result of the medium’s reproducibility. Taking each aspect into account confirms photography’s unique role in revealing the multiple ways in which modernity was a global phenomenon that was always lived and experienced through the specificity of local and indigenous cultural conditions.
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