Demonstrations across the United States and beyond have been ignited against racism and police brutality following the murder of George Floyd by four police officers. Giving new purpose to the Black Lives Matter movement and reopening the discussion of race relations in America yet once again, the predominantly peaceful protests in certain instances have erupted in violence and have been met with less than magnanimous authority.
The disappointing leadership in the U.S. throughout the Covid-19 crisis doubled down and extended its already wide posture of denial and unaccountability into sheer aggression. Trump threatened to invoke the Insurrection Act against the nation’s own people with a show of force in the face of protests for justice and elicited nearly every branch of the arm forces to intervene: The deluge of acronyms of agencies presenting themselves to subvert the demonstration in Washington including the FBI, DEA, ATF, and the SWAT team, along with even the Texas Prison Guards shuffled into the ranks. Just short of deputizing anyone with a military grade assault weapon and the confederate kitchen sink, the Attorney General, i.e., presumptive personal lawyer to the president, Bill Barr was seen calling plays out of the dictator’s handbook from the sidelines. And like the grand orchestra for some imperial leader, the anti-protest squad descended on the peaceful demonstrators to contrive the path for the president to pose before a church with a Bible in hand and claiming domination of the crowds through spewings on social media with all the fanfare of a totalitarian regime. All of this, fittingly, on the week of the 31st anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre.
Still, protests and vigils continue into the second week as people in other countries join in solidarity and institutions and organizations including The Walker Art Center and the Minneapolis Institute of Art have started to cut ties with their local police departments.
Welcome to the .117th edition of Prescriptions. This week, we revisit some of the previous articles and profiles which now seem more pertinent than ever.
RaMell Ross / Hale County This Morning, This Evening (still)
Once again, the movements of #WhileBlack and Black Lives Matter have been invoked by the swift succession of recent incidents of discrimination and brutality against the black population reminding us that the pandemic is not solely from without. Today we survey some artists who have created, inspired, and engaged, while black.
Robin Hammond / W. Eugene Smith Grant 2013
Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice & peace in the world. Thus begins the Declaration. This feature surveys artists who have created in Resistance, Rebellion, and in the Struggle for Human Rights.
Southern Rites / Gillian Laub
This small town symbolized the archetype of pastoral American life. Yet this idyllic place was also held hostage by a dark past, manifesting in the racial tensions that scar much of American history. Gillian Laub / Southern Rites, Organized by ICP / International Center of Photography and curator Maya Benton. Various engagements through 2023.
© Nikos Economopoulos, Magnum Photos
They Defend Our Freedoms
Acclaimed French journalist Éric Fottorino delves into the history of human rights for Magnum Photos and the European Parliament to mark 30 years of the Sakharov Prize. Magnum photographers Jérôme Sessini, Bieke Depoorter, Enri Canaj, and Newsha Tavakolian have worked with four remarkable individuals, all staunch defenders of human rights, to shine a light on their work.
Nelson Mandela (1918–2013)
It was the recent centennial of the birth of Nelson Mandela and we honor his life and work through a survey of photography covering the struggles of race, oppression and resistance of the Apartheid. Featuring the works of Raymond Depardon, David Goldblatt, and others.
Gordon Parks / Photographer
Gordon Parks was one of the seminal figures of twentieth century photography. A humanitarian with a deep commitment to social justice, he left behind a body of work that documents many of the most important aspects of American culture from the early 1940s up until his death in 2006, with a focus on race relations, poverty, civil rights, and urban life.
Art & Politics in America
Some believe art is created through a certain self reflection. Politicians rarely deal in this process. Governance, however, should at least look into the eyes of its citizens. This editorial considers the collective resignation of the 16 prominent members of the Committee on the Arts and the Humanities serving the U.S. White House to protest the less than presidential response to the Charlottesville incident which many understood to be condoning of the behavior of hate groups.
James Baldwin and Medgar Evers in a 1963 image by Steve Schapiro
James Baldwin / Writer
A novelist and essayist of considerable renown, James Baldwin, born in 1924 in New York City, bore articulate witness to the unhappy consequences of American racial strife. Baldwin’s writing career began in the last years of legislated segregation; his fame as a social observer grew in tandem with the civil rights movement as he mirrored blacks’ aspirations, disappointments, and coping strategies in a hostile society.
RaMell Ross / Hale County This Morning, This Evening (still)
Hale County This Morning, This Evening
Director and Photographer RaMell Ross’ acclaimed feature documentary is a study of light, mood, movement and Black life in the U.S. South. Dazzling and sun-drenched, Hale County This Morning, This Evening is an innovative, impressionistic portrait of contemporary life in Hale County, Alabama. RaMell Ross’ careful and considered feature was filmed over five years and is constructed from fleeting, quotidian moments – church services, basketball practice and family gatherings.
Taschen’s meticulous reprint of Richard Avedon & James Baldwin’s searing monograph, Nothing Personal, explores the complexities and contradictions of the American experience. Deploying both image and text, Avedon and Baldwin examine the formation of identity, and the bonds that both underlie and undermine human connection.
Henry Taylor / Artist
Henry Taylor is a contemporary African American painter whose enigmatic works include portraits of psychiatric patients, historical figures, and friends. “I paint everyone, or I try to,” the artist has explained. “I try to capture the moment I am with someone who could be my friend, a neighbor, a celebrity, or a homeless person.”
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Earlier this year we celebrated Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day. The selective memory of a nation still needs jogging in order for the dream to come true. Our feature honors Martin Luther King Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement. Photography by Bruce Davidson, Yoichi Okamoto, Gordon Parks, James Karales, Marion S. Trikosko, and Bob Adelman.
“And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal. I have a dream…”
– Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. / 1963