Thesis Highlight in All The Best, Alice

i forgot where we were...

Excerpt from a thesis by Johnnie Chatman

Grand Canyon , 2017

Grand Canyon, 2017

I Forgot Where We Were... uses constructs and idioms of the West and western landscape photography as allegorical elements to facilitate a conversation on black identity as it reconfigures itself against media, historical, and trans-global narratives. Vantage points around the West act as intersectional beacons for explorations of culture, history and consumerism, as rich histories are compressed into marketable cultural capital.

In pursuing this route my project explores the ambiguity and multiplicity of blackness oscillating between a space of romance and critique, objective research and personal narrative. The dialogue produced between what is said and what is not - creates meaning that is as complicated as it subtle, ironic or conflicting. Through this, it is never assured that the act of signifying will yield for the audience the desired payoff. Representation of the black body in the context of the American West - that has too often been, as Neil Campbell describes, defined by binary and reductionist grids of thought and image when, in fact, it’s more than geography, it is a complex, unstable signifier that has been given meaning by those who have lived within it, passed through it, conquered it, settled, farmed, militarized, urbanized, and dreamed it.

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At about midnight last Thursday, I got off the #1 bus in the Outer Richmond and noticed something was ... off. The fog seemed ominously dark above me, but Geary was lit up as normal. Turning towards my house, I realized that a power outage had caused a blackout from 32nd to 44th, between Balboa and Geary Ave. The fog was so thick that it made the darkness seem to reach out for me on the eerie walk towards my house. 

It was as if a dome had been placed over the Outer Richmond. No candles, no flashlights, no noise, not much of anything except faint glow of the city against the fog, and eventually, the isolated beams of the emergency crews. I grabbed a thicker coat and my camera in an attempt to document such a rare, unsettling evening...."

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