Cara Romero, Water Memory, 2015
Reflecting Lenses
Mar 6 – Sep 1, 2024
Gorman Museum of Native American Art
Davis, CA, USA

For decades, the Gorman Museum of Native American Art has hosted artists who advance Indigenous visual sovereignty – understood as the assertion of Indigenous autonomy through visual media. Photographs are now central to the museum’s collection of contemporary art. Themes that are prevalent in the collection relate to social and environmental justice, connection to homeland, and Indigenous empowerment in the contemporary world. This exhibition presents highlights from the collection by more than two dozen Indigenous artists from North America, Aotearoa, and Australia.

Throughout its nearly two-hundred-year history, photography has been a tool for colonial projects across the globe. Non-Native photographers deployed images that dehumanized and stereotyped Indigenous people. The non-Native gaze produced narratives of vanishing cultures, primitive minds, and victims of progress. The work of early Indigenous photographers is seen as the emergence of a Native point of view. These images not only restore dignity to the subject, they reflect the priorities and realities of Indigenous experiences. Taking up the camera was an act of visual sovereignty.

Contemporary artists approach photography from a diversity of backgrounds including photojournalism, performance art, digital production, and film making. They produce visions of collective memory and counter narratives, in addition to portraits and landscapes. The subject of these images is Native presence. Many Indigenous artists have examined issues of self-representation through their artistic practice. In response, the museum uses the artists’ own words to present their ideas and artistic strategies.

  • Mikiko Hara: Small Myths
    Chose Commune

    Mikiko Hara has her own way of secretly capturing the strangers who cross her path: a young man on the train, a couple holding hands, a little girl playing in a park… Sometimes their eyes meet briefly as she presses the shutter, but Mikiko Hara does not exchange with her subjects. Yet, these portraits reveal something infinitely personal, as if the photographer and her subjects were bound by an invisible pact (more…)

  • Ernest Cole: A Lens in Exile
    Jun 13 – Oct 12, 2024
    London, UK

    Offering a rare and reflective insight into the seminal South African photographer Ernest Cole, A Lens in Exile is the first exhibition of his photographs documenting New York City during the height of the civil rights movement in America. Best known for his radical images documenting the violence of apartheid, Cole fled South Africa in 1966 and was officially made stateless in 1968. (more…)

  • Polly Braden: Leaving Ukraine
    Mar 15 – Sep 15, 2024
    Foundling Museum
    London, UK

    Polly Braden: Leaving Ukraine is an intimate portrait of women, forced to leave their homes following the Russian invasion of Ukraine on 24 February 2022. In this new series of work we see the extraordinary journeys undertaken by mothers, daughters, teenagers and babies in arms. Since the outbreak of the war in Ukraine, Polly Braden has used her camera to document the lives of women and children unexpectedly scattered across Europe. (more…)

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