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CCP Spring Lecture Series: Sama Alshaibi and Deborah Willis

Photograph of Sama Alshaibi courtesy of Neil Chowdhury. Photograph of Deb Willis by Adam Ryder

Embodying Self as Subject, with Sama Alshaibi and Deborah Willis

The question of the photographed subject presents a central ethical and political challenge today that is invariably bound up with centuries of image production, with the lenses through which we have constructed our selves and another’s self. Sama Alshaibi and Deborah Willis will take an immersive look into the visual and identity politics of portraiture and self-portraiture, into imagining the body as a setting in which political and personal narratives intersect and unfold. Together they will inquire into the registers of photography and the human experience—of gender, race, religion, politics and art. What does it mean to excavate image histories that simultaneously revise the sense of ourselves today? How, and to what extent, can we be attentive to what stories live in the body? In what ways are we able to tackle such urgent issues as migrations, borders, and power through photography? Theirs is work not only vital to the civil discourses of our moment, but also of deep significance as we look to yesterday’s discourses and forward to tomorrow’s.

This CCP Spring Lecture series event is presented with the generous support from the College of Fine Arts Diversity and Inclusion Grant.

About Sama Alshaibi:

Sama Alshaibi’s photographs, videos and immersive installations examine the mechanisms of fragmentation in the aftermath of war and exile. They feature a female figure, often her own, that references a complex site of struggle and identification, and confront an image history of photographs and moving images through a feminist perspective. Recent exhibitions include the State of The Art 2020, Crystal Bridges (Arkansas, 2020), 13th Cairo International Biennale (Egypt, 2019), and solo exhibitions at Ayyam Gallery (Dubai, 2019) and Artpace (San Antonio, 2019). Alshaibi received the 2019 Project Development Award from the Center (Santa Fe), 2018 Artist Grant from the Arizona Commission on The Arts, and the 2017 Visual Arts Grant from the Arab Fund for Arts and Culture (Beirut). Her monograph, Sama Alshaibi: Sand Rushes In was published by Aperture, NYC in 2015. Alshaibi’s twenty-one solo exhibitions and over 150 group exhibitions include the 55th Venice Biennale, Pen + Brush (NYC, 2019), 2018 Breda Photo Festival (Netherlands), American University Museum (Washington D.C., 2018), 2017 Honolulu Biennial, Marta Herford Museum (Germany, 2017), Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art (NY, 2017), SMoCA (Scottsdale, 2016), and MoMA (NYC, 2012). Alshaibi was a recipient of the Fulbright Scholar Fellowship in 2014-2015 in Ramallah, West Bank. She holds a MFA in Photography, Video, and Media Arts from the University of Colorado. Alshaibi is Professor of Photography, Video and Imaging at University of Arizona, Tucson.

About Dr. Deborah Willis:

Deborah Willis, Ph.D, is University Professor and Chair of the Department of Photography & Imaging at the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University and has an affiliated appointment with the College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Social & Cultural Analysis, Africana Studies, where she teaches courses on Photography & Imaging, iconicity, and cultural histories visualizing the black body, women, and gender. Her research examines photography’s multifaceted histories, visual culture, the photographic history of Slavery and Emancipation; contemporary women photographers and beauty. She received the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Fellowship and a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship. Willis is the author of Posing Beauty: African American Images from the 1890s to the Present; and co-author of The Black Female Body A Photographic History; Envisioning Emancipation: Black Americans and the End of Slavery; and Michelle Obama: The First Lady in Photographs (both titles a NAACP Image Award Winner). Professor Willis’s curated exhibitions include: “In Pursuit of Beauty” at Express Newark; “Let Your Motto Be Resistance: African American Portraits” at the International Center of Photography and “Reframing Beauty: Intimate Moments” at Indiana University. Since 2006 she has co-organized thematic conferences exploring imaging the black body in the West such as the conference titled Black Portraiture[s] which was held in Johannesburg in 2016. She has appeared and consulted on media projects including documentary films such as Through A Lens Darkly and Question Bridge: Black Males, a transmedia project, which received the ICP Infinity Award 2015, and American Photography, PBS Documentary.

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