Photographer Myra Greene supervises the photography major in the Spelman College Department of Art & Visual Culture. As an artist Greene explores photographic processes that engage issues about the body, memory, the absorption of culture, and the ever-shifting identity of African Americans. In 2013, Greene started experimenting with African fabrics to investigate her own relationship to culture through the deconstruction and reconstruction of textiles. Her current projects include creating protest quilts as a means to think about the act of sewing and art-making as protest.
Character Recognition is a series of ambrotype self-portraits. The intimate portraits, character studies of sorts, tightly frame the artist’s face and, specifically, close-up views of her ears, eyes, nose, and mouth. By employing ambrotypes, which first came into use in the early 1850s, Greene deliberately recalls a medium that has been outmoded for more than a century.
On the series, Greene explains:“Confronted with an upswell of bigotry both personal and public, I was forced to ask myself, ‘What do people see when they look at me? Am I nothing but Black? Is that skin tone enough to describe my nature and expectation in life? Do my strong teeth make me a strong worker? Does my character resonate louder than my skin tone?’ Using a photographic process linked to the times of ethnographic classification, I repeatedly explore my ethnic features in Character Recognition. The lessons learned are haunting and frightening in these modern times.”