Character Recognition 2006 - 2007

Confronted with an up swell of bigotry both personal and public (the rhetoric surrounding hurricane Katrina) 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 process linked to the times of ethnographic classification, I repeatedly explore my ethnic features.

Always fascinated by historical processes, I wanted to learn how to make wet plate collodion. This process, which is coated onto black glass was popular from the 1850s through the 1880s creates a singular unique image. The glass is first coated with a thin layer of collodion, and then sensitized in a silver bath. While still wet, the glass is exposed using a large format camera. The plate is then developed and then fixed. When I applied this old process to my interest in the black body and self, the imagery described my body in a way never imagined.

Tainted with the visual history of American slavery, these images point directly to the features of race. Thick lips and nose, and darken skinned; these contemporary studies link the view to a complicated historical past. While the process of wet plate codes the body in this work, the body is able to speak back. Through small facial gestures the body reacts and rejects to these modes and ways of classification.

--Myra Greene