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Photos by Maria Baranova

Shadow Me is a performative work centered around images taken by white photographers of black life in the 1930s southern United States. In this work, performed at the Watermill Center, I explore how the gaze upon the black body via photography recognizes the subject as human while indirectly making a power dynamic visible. That power dynamic – established via Jim Crow laws and  historic notions of white supremacy, limits the agency of the black subjects in these photographs to determine how and if they were to be photographed. During the performance, I turn the gaze back onto the audience by pretending to shoot photos of them, but I was actually shooting video.  The uneasiness of the pose of the audience seen in this video documentation creates a simulation of  unease that those earlier subjects felt. I also explored the role of labor in these historic photographs by wearing a painter’s overalls and hanging photos as if they were laundry.

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