"Lauri Lyons and Ruddy Roye In Conversation"
Friday, March 08 - 5:00PM to 5:45PM
The conversation between Ruddy Roye and Lauri Lyons will explore their views on the myths of photography the American Dream as well as their individual practices, thought-leadership, activism, and entrepreneurship. Their national and international perspectives as citizens of Jamaica and the United States will be of great significance in light of current discussions and debates about American identity, immigration, and whom gets to be American.
Lauri Lyons, Flag International
Flag International is an investigation of American culture, politics, and nation branding. Since 1995 Lauri Lyons has traveled the world photographing and interviewing people with the American flag. The Flag series reveals what is beneath the surface of the American dream, by looking beyond stereotypes and into the minds of ordinary citizens within the United States and abroad. Their feelings about America not only tells us the reality of what America is but also what it may become. Through each person's photographs, interviews, and hand-written statements about America, you become aware of the beauty, inequity and hope that has created the American cultural fabric before and after 9/11. The intention of the Flag series is to inspire an authentic dialogue about cultural understanding within a global framework. Cultural understanding is not only how a person or a nation views itself, but also how the world views you.
Ruddy Roye, When Life is a Protest
Hands held up—the universal gesture of helplessness. Raised hands declaring I surrender, I am at your mercy. Palms facing outward to announce I am vulnerable. And, of course: I comply. A body hoping to avoid harm—or, God forbid, become a statistic—takes on a pose to show that it's no threat; hands are in the air to placate—plead, even. If not a sign of innocence, it's an appeal to be treated as an innocent. But in the Summer of 2014, after the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, this simple gesture was transformed into a symbol of protest, of determination, of defiance. Hands now ascend to assert dignity. They are no longer merely lifted in limbo, awaiting some sort of pardon, but instead demand recognition, justice, peace.
People's attempts to wrench dignity from indignity is squarely in my gaze. I am trying to use the camera to draw us into presences and meanings that are abundantly in plain view but frequently hidden in our blind spots. I focus on lives in public—the world beyond the front door, where many with black skin who step outside have to calibrate their fear to other people's fear of them. I try to document the mundane aspects of daily life and reveal them to be anything but mundane; in my photographs, people constantly negotiate what it means to have dignity in the face of innumerable forces arrayed against this basic human quality—thus the title of his ongoing project: "When Living Is A Protest." I see them, those fathers and sons and mothers and daughters and grandmothers and neighbors and strangers who insist that their lives are no less valuable because of the mere fact of their blackness. I have learnt to pay attention to them, those communities vying not to be erased. I open up my lens to looks at them with warmth and directness—in the photos, dignified faces stare straight at me and at us, and I look back, we, us at them—and I implore the rest of the world to see it too.
I use portraiture with vivid color and line and expressiveness to draws the rich, varied lives of people too often unseen. "I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me," laments the narrator of Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man. "When they approach me they see only my surroundings, themselves, or figments of their imagination—indeed, everything and anything except me." Those ignored and overlooked and caricatured—the invisible visible—know that their treatment is not a problem of sight, but of imagination. I provides us evocative reminders—that we are here and we will be seen.
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