“I photograph family, friends, and strangers, and I operate on the belief that my own being is found in union with those I take pictures of.” 

—Deana Lawson

This exhibition is the first museum survey dedicated to the work of Deana Lawson (b. 1979 in Rochester, NY). Lawson is a singular voice in photography today. For more than 15 years, she has been investigating and challenging the conventional representations of black identities. Drawing on a wide spectrum of photographic languages, including the family album, studio portraiture, staged tableaux, documentary pictures, and appropriated images, Lawson’s posed photographs channel broader ideas about personal and social histories, sexuality, and spiritual beliefs.

Lawson’s large-format color photographs are highly staged and depict individuals, couples, and families in both domestic and public settings, picturing narratives of family, love, and desire. Engaging members of her own community as well as strangers she meets on the street, she meticulously poses her subjects in a variety of interiors to create what the artist describes as “a mirror of everyday life, but also a projection of what I want to happen. It’s about setting a different standard of values and saying that everyday black lives, everyday experiences, are beautiful, and powerful, and intelligent.” Lawson’s works are made in collaboration with her subjects, who are often nude, embracing, and directly confronting the camera, destabilizing the notion of photography as a passively voyeuristic medium.

This survey exhibition will include a selection of photographs from 2004 to the present, and will be accompanied by a fully illustrated scholarly catalog, featuring the voices and perspectives of a variety of scholars, historians, and writers.