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Kris Graves

The Unknown's picture

            I was honestly stunned and caught off guard throughout Kris Graves’ talk, looking at his powerful photographs and the video on macroaggressions. He was very honest, funny, thoughtful, and political. The depth to which he portrayed black people and their complexities in the Testament Project was powerful. The people were portrayed as complex beings with multi-layered personalities who are real and alive. Their physical bodies testified to a resistance- being, embodying, and presenting and being presented with enriching colors. In this day and age, the physicality, the bodies name a permance and a resistance to genocide and the destruction of the black body. The emotions and visceral responses that he is able to evoke in people is moving. Displaying black men and womyn in positions and with expressions that defy racist stereotypes about these people is radical and empowering. He seemed to breathe life and capturer fuller stories of these layered beings. His juxtaposition of two images of a street in the Bronx allowed the onlooker to see multiple angles of often overlooked public places and thereby complicating their meanings.

            He was very honest and open in his talk. He was humble, specifically when he spoke about struggling to learn how to interact with his subjects. I appreciated how much depth he saw in each individual person he photgraphed. I think because he knows and has a connection with every person he photographs, he assumes more responsibility in portraying the people who he chooses to take photographs of.  He spoke about how often and easily galleries and museums lose money. I was impressed with how many hats he has put on, whether through mounting photographs and creating a book, running a gallery, or taking photopgraphs in the museum.

            I appreciated the way he wanted to convey a story through his photography. I was intrigued by his photographs taken with physical memories riddled with murder, pain, racism, and destruction. Choosing to photograph the places where Michael Brown and others black men were killed by the police literally and metaphorically gave us a deeper image of the situation and possible causes for the murders. This project connected places to lives, beings to their surroundings, and the photos in many ways breathed life into men, who have been demonized and deconstructed in the media. He represented their lives, this movement, racism, and socioeconomic struggles through symbolism, which often raised more questions and spoke to the silence and willed erasure of these bodies and their histories.

            I thought the people in the video about microagresions were brave and poised. Many of them spoke to unsureties- not knowing how to react or interpret not getting a job because of one's race, being called up to the front of their class because of their race, and their actions constantly being compared to expectations for all black men.