Picturing Power & Privilege is an exhibition of photos and text created by students of Jim O’Donnell, Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Arts Administration, Education, and Policy, enrolled in his class “Visual Culture: Investigating Diversity & Social Justice.”
Terms like “Power,” “Privilege,” “Oppression,” and “Social Justice” are increasingly part of our national discourse, but what do they mean in our daily lives? When do they affect us? Where do they manifest themselves in our lives? How do we understand these ideas? If we are to come to a shared understanding, then we need a shared language—and creating a shared visual language helps us share and discuss these abstract but urgent concepts.
Conversation with AAEP Ph.D. candidate Jim O’Donnell and UAS intern Genevieve Wagner.
"Photo Elicitation" in the classroom
Students set out individually with the goal of taking photos that demonstrate or represent the terms “Power,” “Privilege,” “Oppression,” or “Social Justice.”
Afterward, students responded to questions about their photos and share their original images as prompts for a discussion around these ideas. Participants received no special training in photography, as the purpose of this exercise was identifying and visualizing the abstract concepts above in concrete terms as they occurred in the lives of participants. Aesthetics were not of primary importance of the photos which instead serve as personal tools for communication and exchange.
Pedagogical Approach to Exhibition
About Photo Elicitation
"In McCann’s study (2014), the majority of participants had not previously engaged in coursework around social justice topics. In individual interviews with participants, many noted that they did not initially have a language to write or speak about their understandings of privilege, oppression, or social justice. For example, one participant found that photographs helped formulate 'even just general sentences' about privilege, oppression, and social justice and allowed her 'to explain [these concepts] to even my friends and family.' Thus, the images that students included in the photo elicitation project allowed students to express parts of their lives that they did not yet have the discourse or language to articulate" (Kortegast et al, 2019, pp 494).
Create and share AT LEAST THREE (3) original photos/image that represents, illustrates, or demonstrates AT LEAST ONE (1) of the concepts above (“Power,” “Privilege,” “Oppression,” or “Social Justice”). Afterwards, respond to the reflection questions to explain your thinking behind the photo(s)/image(s) and how they relate to these concepts.
- An increased understanding of conceptual foundations associated with social justice;
- An enhanced understanding of how one’s personal worldview informs their understanding of privilege, oppression, and social justice;
- The ability to articulate a personal philosophy that integrates personal experiences and academic knowledge.
Photo elicitation reflection questions
(Adapted from McCann, 2014)
Tell us about your photo(s)/image(s). Try to answer as many of these questions as possible.
- Describe your photos and their meanings from your perspective.
- What was your strategy in selecting your photo(s)/image(s)?
- What about the concept was a struggle, if anything, to capture via photography? Why?
- What about the concept was straight forward, if anything, to capture via photography? Why?
- How did you edit or alter your photos/images, if at all? Why?
- What was most interesting or meaningful to you about this task?
- What connections to readings/viewings/lectures came to mind as you were approaching this task?
- How do you think your photos relates to your social identity, if at all?
- If you had never participated in this course, how might you view these images differently?
- How might someone with a very different social identity from you view these photos?
- How do these photos reflect new and evolving understandings of the world or culture that have been provoked through participation in the course?
Kortegast, C., McCann, K., Branch, K., Latz, A.O., Kelly, B.T., & Linder, C. (2019). Enhancing Ways of Knowing: The Case for Utilizing Participant-Generated Visual Methods in Higher Education Research. The Review of Higher Education 42(2), 485-510. doi:10.1353/rhe.2019.0004 (Links to an external site.).
McCann, K. I. (2014). Master's students' experiences in a graduate preparation program: Multicultural competency and social justice curriculum. (Unpublished doctoral dissertation). Loyola University Chicago, Chicago, IL. Retreived from: https://ecommons.luc.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2285&context=luc_diss
For this assignment, I took photos of art I found downtown while on a run. I think many of these photos represent the oppression of the BIPoC community and others that are considered deviants from the social "norm". The images also show their demand for social justice and social change for everyone to be more loving and accepting. I chose photos that were visually enticing while also carrying a powerful message. I took these photos on my phone and used the edits on there to emphasize the colors and add a bit more dimension since the lighting was not the best. What was most meaningful to me in this task was seeing the heart and the care that was put into making these artworks that can be seen throughout the Short North. They all have strong messages and combined with the powerful imaging, I enjoyed looking around and finding hidden artwork all over.
My favorites that I found were the blue and red photo with the three black individuals with the message about ending systemic racism and the photo with the man and his son and the words "That's my dad" emphasizing that these people are human beings just like everyone else; furthermore, you should not just see a black man, you should see a son, a father, a husband, a hard worker, an art lover, whoever that person really is. Two more of my favorites were the photo of the woman and the words "Black is beautiful" which addresses the white standard of beauty and the man with the purple glasses which reminded me of the image from F. Scott Fitzgerald's "The Great Gatsby" of the billboard with the eyes that watched over the characters. These photos reflect evolving understandings of white privilege and the oppression of people of color and how our society needs to change.
For my photos, I chose a picture of a Lamborghini that I saw at a recent car show, my laptop, and my view from my room. I view all of these pictures as being privileged. So many times in life, I forget to be thankful for what privilege I have, and these helped to remind me. Being able to attend school on a high-quality laptop and being able to live in a quiet suburb along with being able to attend local car meets are all privileges that many do not have. My strategy for taking these pictures was to snap a picture of whatever I thought of that I thought many others may not have. As I am staying at home, there was not much I could take pictures of. Nothing was too hard to capture as all my pictures are either from my home or a recent event.
The concept was straightforward because I was able to think about the privileges I have that others do not have and to document pictures of them. I did not edit my images because I wanted my pictures to show my reality and if I were to edit it then it would be distorting my privileges. The most meaningful part was reflecting on how lucky I am in my life. Having grown up in poverty, the 5-year-old me would never imagine himself driving a new car, living in a beautiful home, with an expensive laptop. Because of this assignment, I am able to be more grateful for the privileges afforded me. One connection I was able to make is from the videos that show African Americans as not having the same opportunities to succeed. I look around the car meet where people bring expensive cars, and the majority of people are white. I also look around my neighborhood and everyone is also white. I came to think that this kind of shows how society is unfair top certain groups of people which we have explored in this class. I think my photos show a pretty standard picture set for my social identity. I feel like many people who are similar to me have access to the same resources. If I never participated, then I would have never come to terms on how privileged I am to have what I have. Many would sacrifice a lot to have my circumstances and I realized that with this assignment. Someone very different from me may look at my photos and wish for the same opportunities because they are born in communities that do not allow them the privileges I hold. For me personally, I grew up hearing people around me saying that everyone is born equal and that all cultures should be respected. As I grow up (evolve I guess), I have realized that people are not born equal. Many people are born in positions of power while others are born in positions of underprivilege.
The first photo I chose was a poem called Gesture to High Water that is displayed on High Street. I interpret the poem as a metaphor for the Black Lives Matter movement. It is written from the perspective of Black people and it is basically a call for help surrounding all of the unrest in the world right now. I think it describes how Instagram posts and other acts are performative, yet do not really solve the problem of police brutality. The water, which represents political and civil discourse, is continuing to rise and people and Black people are stranded, left to watch history repeat itself.
The next photo I chose is located on South High Street. The photo is an illustration of Black people that asks other citizens to beware of racism and its causes so that Black people do not have to combat the pain and suffering caused by them. I think this photo is also a response to the unrest that is happening in the world now and it shows that Black people of all genders and ages have to deal with the effects of racism, bias, and police brutality.
The final photo I chose is a selfie of a group of college friends and I. I chose this picture for this assignment because I think it shows my privilege. I am privileged enough to have my own apartment and a place to host my friends. I am also privileged to have a diverse group of supportive friends. The people in this photo represent many different races and ethnic groups.
For my selecting strategy, I kind of just chose pictures as I encountered them. I found the artwork while walking along High Street and the picture of my friends and I is from last weekend.
I think that privilege is a difficult concept to capture and I had to think out of the box in order to relate it to my image.
The artwork was more straightforward because the concept was conveyed quite clearly through the image.
I think what was most interesting was just how I had to alter the way I view the world around me. Instead of just observing things, I had an intention in mind to see things as photo muses.
What came to mind during this project was our discussion assignment about White Privilege. We had to read an article that a woman wrote about the daily privileges she experiences. Some of her privilege came from aspects of her life other than just her race. For my third photo, I commented on my financial and social privileges.
I think my photos relate to my identity as a Black woman. The majority of the pictures I chose, we centered around the Black Lives Matter movement and what is means to be a Black person in America right now.
If I had never taken this course, I probably would not have attached the concepts listed in the directions to these images. I think that they are powerful images on their own, but I probably would not have analyzed the images further than just looking at them and appreciating them.
I think that a person with different social identities would have different feelings about my pictures. For example, a White person that is not directly affected by police brutality may not find my image as powerful as I did.
My photos show how important it is to check and realize your privilege as well as how racial violence is affecting the world. They also show how people convey their feelings through different forms of art.
The first picture I took is of Thompson Library from a walk I took across campus. This, to me, represents privilege in the sense that I am privileged to be here. Not everyone gets the opportunity to apply to college, much less attend a four-year institution. The second Picture I took is also from my walk across campus. On north campus, I found a collection of chalk messages much like these, either supporting the same message or advertising clubs. The ones I chose to photograph say “black buckeye matter” and “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” These represent social justice, as they are spreading the message of equality that movements like Black Lives Matter are fighting for.
My last picture is one I took over the weekend of an apple orchard some friends and I went to. I thought this was a good picture to use because it highlights something that I often take for granted, but it is definitely a privilege. This being access to a car. Although I do not personally have one myself, I have friends who have constant access to a vehicle which is a privilege that many people do not get even in their adult lives. My strategy was to take in as much as I could around campus and open my eyes to the things I see every day and how they could apply to these topics. In this strategy, I found it hard to find things representing power. The easiest thing for me to find was examples of privilege. I think this was largely because I was on campus and in that space there’s a lot to remind me of how privileged I am. Something I found interesting when I was brainstorming was the idea of anti-homeless infrastructure. I thought this would be a good example of oppression that would likely be present on this campus but did not come across any examples myself. These pictures definitely relate to my identity in the fact that most of them reflect that I am a college student, they also reflect views that I support. Someone who does not support the same views I do may even try to argue that the chalk writings are a form of vandalism, whereas myself and many others view it as a positive thing. This assignment made me stop and look at the things in my everyday life in a different way than I normally would.
The first image I chose was this graffiti that I found near my house in Columbus. This image illustrates social justice in a great way, since they are both conveying the desire for equality. It shows "BLM" and "One Humanity". BLM of course, references Black Lives Matter. This is powerful because even small pieces of art like this seek to end systemic racism in this country. The "One Humanity" shows that we are all one in this world, and how no one should have power over another based purely on their ethnicity or race.
This next image was one I took when I went to visit UC. In ways, this photo shows oppression. It may not be clear, but this person was attempting to force his beliefs on others, and berating people who spoke out. There was a larger crowd not pictured, and he was attempting to yell at others that they were going to hell if they did not believe in what he said. The university police had to escort him off campus, but it was a very strange thing to see. This is somewhat common also at OSU. Sometimes it isn't blatant but forcing religious beliefs on others and reprimanding people who don't agree is a form of religious oppression.
These two images may look different but have the same message. Both images represent privilege. The first one is an image of my Japanese textbook. I chose this because I am very privileged to be able to learn a different language. Not a lot of people have access to learning materials and are able to do this. The second image shows a neighborhood near my hometown of Liberty Township, Cincinnati. There are streets upon streets of mansions and large houses. This is a huge privilege because not many people can afford housing such as this, and they do not have to worry about not being able to afford most items. They do not have to worry about crime as well, since the neighborhood is gated. They do not have to worry about people judging them based on their living arrangements and income.
Before taking this course, I never really realized how privileged I am or how oppression and social justice have this profound of an effect on the world. Even the smaller things, such as the man forcing his beliefs on others, did not really phase me much back then, but now I think differently. I always thought of graffiti as art, but never really investigated the messages behind some of them. My perspective has changed, and I believe before I took this class I would not look as hard into these images to find the deeper meaning.
Three of these pictures were took in Kendall Park where I live. The first picture is the apartment Kendall Park. Its rent is not cheap. My parents are rich, and they can afford the rent for me. I am 21 years old. However, in lots of family, 21 teenagers have already started to work and can’t live in such a building. When I took this photo, there is a picture in my brain. Some homeless children sleep in the street. Social justice didn’t make them live well and be treated well. There is even not such a thing called social justice in those poor countries.
And the second photo I took is a car. I can see that this car is much cheaper than other cars in this apartment. So even in the same place we live, people still have different life quality. Car is just a transportation tool for him/her. However, other expensive cars are a way to show off. These drivers make lots of noise on the road, especially in this apartment. So there comes to my bias. I dislike who drive sports car drivers. I think they just like to make noise because that is the reason why they buy sports car. The third photo is a moving car. At 7 A.M, I just wake and ready to take a breakfast. However, some people have already started to work. My student social identity let me can stay at home and my family let me not to worry about the tuition, so I don’t have to work for part time job. But there are lots of students take the job and take online course. They have much less leisure time than me.
The first picture I took illustrates both oppression and privilege. The race reflects a person of color (the black remote) and a person with privilege (the white remote). The race demonstrates the obstacles each must go through in life. As shown in the picture the individual facing oppression has significantly more unnecessary obstacles as a result of social injustice relative to the individual with privilege. The second photo illustrates religious oppression as the boy to the right can be seen making fun of the boy on the left. (Please keep in mind they are both my friends, and this was done for assignment purposes). With that being said the photo illustrates that this can occur on such a small level relative to what has occurred globally around the world such as the holocaust. This reflects oppression of another individuals’ religious beliefs.
The 3rd photo reflects my privilege, how I have the privilege to learn and go to college. Additionally, the photo reflects how I have the mere privilege to have shelter, a bed, and the financial stability to afford decorations. Granted these are very small things to relative to the gravity of privilege today and what it has become. How it now literally puts other individuals at a disadvantage in life losing the equality every individual deserves in this world. My strategy in taking these photos was trying to be as creative as possible using surrounding objects that have deeper meaning than what meets the eye. At first it was difficult to think of a concept to capture in a photo but once I began to think outside the box it flowed from there. At this point it was straight forward what I was looking to capture in the pictures. I recognized how many of the objects we have another may not for various reasons one being the simple fact of lacking the privilege to attain it, or being oppressed to the point where this object can't even be attained. Additionally, this made me think how an individual can lose opportunities and face many various struggles because of oppression. Therefore, I tried finding objects to resemble that concept and develop on the story to create its meaning. I did not need to edit my photos as I helped create the scene I was looking to capture. The most interesting aspect of the task was when I was taking the privilege vs oppression race picture. This really exemplified and resembled the struggles an individual that faces oppression has throughout their life relative to an individual with privilege. I had to do some deep research on oppression and privilege to help spark my ideas. The photos resemble my social identity because I do have a lot of privilege and I am more than cognizant of that. I would not have viewed these photos any differently because I have always been educated on racism and understand the privilege and oppression that goes on worldwide. Someone with a totally different social identity then me may directly relate to these problems and concepts. Which is quite frankly just unfair and definitely not equal. These photos reflect new and evolving understanding of the n world as the concepts illustrated in the photos are currently prohibiting many people from the equal social justice all humans deserve. This course was directed towards helping us understand these topics and to further be the change the world needs.
My photos represent a little bit of everything. The first photo is a message I saw while walking through campus and to me it represents both power and social justice. I believe that we all have the power to make a change in the world regarding many things, one of them being to rid social injustice. The next photo is a picture of my puppy that I just got, and it represents how I have the privilege to even drive 1 hour and 30 minutes with my car to go buy him. It's not a huge privilege but it is something to my advantage where I have the ability to purchase and take care of an animal. The third photo is a screenshot of a zoom meeting with my dance team members and it represents power, privilege, and social justice. I think it's powerful because of how diverse we are, and it shows how we all can come together and work together. It shows my privilege of how I am able to still meet with them online using my laptop considering the pandemic. Lastly, it represents social justice in regard to the equality aspect where we all were given the opportunity to just audition and join the team.
2. I actually did not really have a strategy. Walking past the message on campus was a coincidence but when I saw it, I actually thought about this assignment which then lead to me taking a picture of my puppy and my team.
3. The struggle that I had was trying to capture a photo for oppression. I feel like I was thinking too hard, but I still don't generally see it all the time whenever I go out somewhere. I also don't go out or take walks often so that didn't help either. I only walked through campus because I had class so if I didn't have class, I would've struggled trying to think of what else to take a picture of.
4. I think taking a photo that represents privilege was the most straight forward. We all have privileges all around us, it could have been anything such as taking a picture of your kitchen or your school notebooks.
5. No edits
9. If I never took this course, I would probably see these images as just something to keep within my memories. I would have never thought about those 4 words and made connections with them in each picture.
10. It's a little hard to say because I feel like these pictures are pretty generic. The message "Be the Change" is very broad so someone else may think of this differently and maybe ask "be the change to what exactly?". Even though the last 2 pictures are more personal and can only relate to me which makes it harder for someone else to connect to, I feel like they still can have the same message of a puppy being a privilege and a diverse dance team representing power and social justice.
11. My photos show that no matter your social identity, we all have some type of power within us and can use whatever privileges we have to our advantages instead of using them to overpower others.
I am currently at home quarantining, so I was limited in what pictures I was able to take. As a result, I chose to make many edits to the pictures I took, in an attempt to make them more exciting. The first photo I took was of bathroom signs at a gas station. I was able to take this photo while on my way home to quarantine. I thought this picture would be a good representation of both privilege and oppression. It is a privilege for me, as a cisgender person, to be able to easily choose which bathroom to use. However, for those who are non-binary, or do not identify as a man or woman, this decision can be difficult. It can be very oppressing to go into a public space, such as a gas station, and not have an option for a bathroom that makes you comfortable.
I think this concept was slightly difficult to capture, as just by looking at bathroom signs, those who do not feel this struggle may not immediately think this is was the image is conveying. Because of this, I chose to make edits to the photo. I chose to highlight the typical norms in our society at pink being associated with women and blue being associate with men. I also chose to edit a distinct black line into the photo to emphasize the way our society tries to make people conform to these two genders. This was an interesting task because it challenged me to take a deeper look at the things I see in my everyday life, as put them into the perspective of someone different than me. This relates to the ideas from the book about social identity. Everyone has a different social identity, and this affects how they view certain things, such as bathroom signs. Having not participated in this course, I do not think I would have ever been pushed to look past what deeper meaning bathroom signs can hold, especially for those who are not cisgender.
The next photo I took was of various yard signs within my neighborhood. When viewing this image, I see privilege. These yard signs represent people's political views and who they may be choosing to vote for. The right to express our political views and be able to vote in elections is a huge privilege that we as Americans have, as many other countries do not allow their citizens this right. I think just by looking at yard signs one might just be angered by seeing ones that do not align with their beliefs. This is why I choose to edit the images to be within an outline of the United States. While I certainly do not agree with some of the yard signs pictured, I understand that our country grants us the right to be able to express our beliefs which is a privilege. I think this was an interesting task because normally when I see yard signs that do not coincide with my beliefs I am normally just offended. But through this activity, I was able to look past the surface of what was being stated on the yard signs and into the deeper meaning of them. I was able to see that yard signs, whether agreeing with my political beliefs or not, are a way for citizens to express themselves and take advantage of this right, that citizens of other countries do not have. I think this relates to my social identity of being an American citizen. It can also relate to the social identity of my socio-economic identity, as I live in a neighborhood where people have yards and are able to place these signs in them, as some people do not have this.
The final picture I took was of various pins that I have at my house. I received these pins at my work, as a way to show support for the Black Lives Matter movement. I think these pins represent social justice. The message on each of these pins demonstrates clear ideas of working together to help solve the racial injustices in our society. I feel like the pins conveyed this message pretty well on their own, but I chose the edit the pictures I took of them to make it more enticing. I make duplicates of each picture I took and created a background with three of the pins. I feel like the pins in the background all had the same overall message of working together and standing by those who are being attacked. I feel like these pins all worked together to promote the main goal of stopping racism, as depicted by the fourth pin. I think this task was interesting because it forced me to be creative with these objects and try to emphasize their message in a new way. This forced me to see what message I could highlight based on how I edited the pictures, which was slightly difficult given their straightforward nature. I think relates to my social identity because as a white person I need to use my white privilege to advocate for Black people, in order to help end racism. This idea also relates to the chapter on racism in the book, which discusses how racism is present on both individual and institutional levels, and it will be up to the people to work to change this. I think someone with a different social identity would view this image slightly differently than I do. As a white person, I see this image and understand that I need to use my privilege to help end racism. A Black person might view this image and understand that they need to keep the fight going and hope that others in their society will also commit to this fight.
My photos are of the oval, a house on campus I saw on my walk home from class with a Black Lives Matter sheet and the voter registration booth in front of Starbucks on campus (the picture is pretty bad but I didn’t want them to know I was taking a picture). To me the oval just represents OSU as a whole and I think going to OSU is a privilege that we all have. We are very fortunate to get to go to college let alone such a great school. Many kids don’t even get to go to college. A lot of us are also very privileged that our parents pay for our school as well. The house with the Black Lives Matter sheet represents social justice. I don’t know who lives in the house, like I said I saw it on my walk home, but whoever these people are raising awareness to the Black Lives Matter movement that is fighting for change in our country.
The voter registration booth shows privilege and social justice, because we live in a country where we are privileged that we get to vote, and we have a say in what happens. It is also social justice, because right now with everything going on most people are urging others to vote, so we can get someone who will create change elected. My strategy was to just walk around and really pay attention to my surroundings and try and notice things I haven’t before. It wasn’t hard for me to notice things for privilege or social justice. They were straight forward because they are easy to be seen. I didn’t really notice anything I could take pictures of for power or oppression, because I think those are things that are harder to be actually seen. Physical things don’t represent them as much. I didn’t edit my images at all. The most meaningful thing to me was just paying more attention to my surroundings and noticing things about the street I walk down all the time that I never noticed before. For example, I never noticed the Black Lives Matter sheet and I walk down that street all the time. Some connections that came to mind for me were our discussions of white privilege, because I actually recently looked up the diversity statistics of OSU and with those stats it is obvious that white privilege exists when it comes to college and specifically OSU. My photos relate to my social identity, specifically the picture of the oval, because going to college and going to a good college is just expected from where I come from and my family. I think the Black Lives Matter sheet someone could connect to social justice if they have never taken this course, but if they saw the other two photos, they wouldn’t think anything of it. Someone with a very different social identity probably wouldn’t think anything of my picture of the oval. But they probably would view the photos of the house and the voter booth the same as me, but maybe not think of voting as a form of social justice. These photos reflect new understandings of the world for me because I would have never just been walking around campus thinking about how privileged I am to be going to OSU. I also never realized how important voting was until this year, because I always thought my vote wouldn’t matter and I am not informed enough, but now I realize it is my responsibility to become informed and that everyone’s vote matters.
The photos I took are meant to resemble the topics above, but do not necessarily take them literally. I tried to use perspective to show the divide that power, privilege and oppression all create. The picture of stairs I took was meant to encompass the perspectives of how it can feel to be born in an oppressed or privileged group. The graffiti picture I took is meant to be as a form of expression by the oppressed. Graffiti is a form of art meant to give a voice to those who do not have the platform to do so. The chains are a symbol of oppression and that is why I took that picture. My strategy for taking these photos was just to walk around my community and see what inspired me.
The aspect of this project that was a struggle was attempting to put myself was trying to recognize or relate the things in my life that represent these ideas and somehow capture them in a simple photo. With little knowledge of the area around me and not being an experienced photographer, it was tough to know exactly where I should go and what Exactly I should be looking for. I edited the photos using my iPhone in order to enhance their quality. The most meaningful part of this experience was getting to connect myself with a more creative side. As a math major most of my studies are very logical, so getting to use the other side of my brain was a fun task to escape from the regular grind. The recent videos about white privilege regularly came to mind during this project. I tried to think of parts of my life I take for granted and things that others inherently do not have. My social identity relates to my photos because it is easier for me to think of the privileges I have rather than the social injustices of other people. I think that if I had never taken this course I would look at art in general as a more straightforward concept rather than trying to look deeper and focus on how I feel when I see it. Someone with a more oppressed social identity might view these images as less meaningful. Because there is a divide between myself and those that are oppressed there is less meaning for social justice for me and what I see as social justice could be completely inaccurate. These photos reflect my new understanding of the world because I am beginning to see the oppression that lives in our country more easily and seeing this divide in my own life has changed drastically.
The first photo is a sign that says "Hate has no home here" at my aunt's house and represents oppression and the fight against it. The second photo is a yard sign for Biden and Harris in the upcoming presidency and represents both power and social justice. Biden and Harris are big on social justice, and yard signs show their power to influence people to vote for them. This photo was only altered by zooming in. The third photo is a picture of the flag my sister just got and is hanging on her balcony.
This represents social justice and the fight for equality. My strategy was to find different pictures for different words rather than for the same word and I just looked all around the past few days. If I had chosen privilege images then they would have matched with my social identities more, but using social justice, oppression, and power doesn't relate as much.
One of the first photos I decided to choose was a picture of my “Make Africa Great Again” hoodie. The words on my “Make Africa Great Again” hoodie mean a lot to me. The fight against colonialism and imperialism in Africa has been going on forever. A question that always crosses my mind is “how can Africa gain its power back?” My parents are native West-Africans and I identify with my West African heritage a lot. I believe that one-way Africa can gain its power back is by having people like myself go back to the continent and give back. I am looking forward to the day where my people will not have to leave Africa for better opportunities. Africa is where my heart belongs. The message on my hoodie is a constant reminder to myself that I have a goal of contributing to making Africa great again.
My second photo illustrates privilege. While shopping at Target, my friend, Summer and I took a quick stop in the cosmetics aisle. We realized how nearly all of the shampoo brands were not meant for people of color that have 4C hair. It is almost like the shampoo brands offered at Target have completely alienated people of color. For a White person with naturally straight hair, it is very easy to go to Target and buy shampoo. In my opinion, that is privilege. Before taking this class, I never reflected on examples of White privilege that are visible to us in society. Struggling to find the right shampoo brand for myself for years seemed very normal to me. I now understand that this is an aspect of my life that I am not privileged in.
The final picture I have are the stairs. The stairs symbolize the fight for social justice. As a minority, I believe that we must take the fight for social justice one step at a time. In America, it always seems like White people are at the top of the stairs while minorities continue to remain at the bottom. Those at the top are often considered too powerful. Those at the bottom are powerless. This pipeline must be broken. The problem may be that we face obstacles like systematic racism. We might find ourselves looking up and seeing how many stairs we have left. However, I believe we must keep going.
For my photos I chose all photos that showed different kinds of privileges. For example, the first photo I chose is a picture of a garage. Having a garage is a privilege because a car parked in a garage is a lot safer than having a car parked on the side of the road. The second picture shows a field. The field included baseball fields and tennis courts and a basketball court. This is a privilege that I have because I am able to go in my backyard and have access to a field with many things. The third photo shows privilege because the car on the left is nicer and newer than the car on the right.
My strategy for taking my photos was to just take photos of random things and see how they could be interpreted as a privilege. For example, the third picture could easily be skewed as a privilege for the car on the right. The argument could be made that they have the privilege of being closer to getting a brand-new car since their current car is so old. I didn't find this too difficult because anything can be portrayed as being a privilege. Sometimes our minds like to view everything as negative, so it is good to take a step back and be thankful for what we have. The concept was somewhat easy to capture however the thing is privilege is a very tricky concept. Privilege could be as deep as skin color or it could be as simple as having a pet dog. That is also what is so interesting about the topic. If I had looked at these photos before taking this class, I would probably think nothing of them. I would just see them as photos and not at all understand the meaning behind them. I think if someone else outside of this class looked at them, they would most likely think the same way. That is because they are just normal pictures. And without and description it is hard to tell the true meaning behind them. This kind of helps me to realize how it is hard for me to understand the things that black people feel. I am not seeing the world through the same lens as them. I don’t interpret things the same way as them. So, unless they explain something to me and why it bothers them it takes me more time and more thought to understand what is going on. Just like if someone who had no clue what my images were about would have no clue what they meant without a little bit of help.
Photo 1: Privilege
I took this photo when I was walking home in the dark one night. I was thinking about how I needed to keep my guard up when I was walking alone as a woman. Every single time I go out by myself, I have my metal water bottle with me, and I always imagine hitting someone with it if I really need to. Luckily, that has not happened yet, but I sometimes think about how guys don’t have to be prepared like that.
I tried to catch the darkest part of my perspective, as well as the two figures in the distance I noticed following me. I thought this would help catch the feeling of tension.
Photo 2: Social Justice
To me, this photo shows a unique perspective of social justice in how each group sees its relationship to another. Would you ever see an alt right wing group setting up shop next to an antifa meeting place? Would an open-boarders ministry be permanently posted next to an ICE center?
This social justice to me is one of the most interesting because both groups believe they’re working for good within the same social group. Anti-racism fights the disparity between (usually) white and black people. LGBT groups advocate for a variety of social changes regarding those with non-heterosexual identities. Meanwhile, pro-choice and pro-life groups both act with women in mind.
Photo 3: Power
Knowledge is power. First thing we ever learn, to the point where we forget about how accurate it is. “Isn’t protesting more powerful? Isn’t voting more powerful?” We unconsciously ask. But consider first that you can read. Consider that you are getting an education which opens up many fields of work to you. Consider that your new field can open up a position in which your voice is heard.
I’ve been in several conversations where new information can turn the tide of perspective. Even in my own experience, learning more can change my own views and then my behavior.
We’re often told that networking is the way to get what you want in this world. But the skills of networking often need to be taught, and the knowledge of people–who you know–is what can be the difference between making it into the public space. I often think about how the wealthy know each other, and the rich tell their children the skills they need to build a name for themselves.
- Most of these photos ended up being serendipity when I took them, where I was thinking about the meaning of each prompt and how each would fit into something I saw in my everyday life. I had previously known about the location of my Social Justice picture, so I was able to get that one first, but the others I took on the go.
- I struggled with getting my photo focus correctly on many of them, trying for different angles to catch the best perspective. I also found it hard to pick subjects at all because I’m usually focused on my school work during the day, (The grind never stops y’all) so I had to change the way I looked at the world.
- I feel like the general emotion or idea behind each image was easiest to catch because they have their own connotations that most people would understand.
- I edited the Privilege and Power photos to change the colors and make them stand out. Meanwhile, I drew lines around the two contrasting subjects in Social Justice to drive home the dichotomy despite the proximity.
- When I was looking for photo subjects, I considered how this task forced us to look for scenes attached to each prompt. Normally I just notice my surroundings and continue on, but this assignment said: Stop. Consider these things. What do they mean?
So that was the most meaningful thing to me.
- I noticed how two of the photos both are about how I see things as a woman, and the second one about how I can read/speak English and am well educated.
- I don’t think I would have had as profound a view on some of these photos if I hadn’t participated in this course. The Privilege photo might make me a little worried, but I wouldn’t exactly think of how this is a lack of privilege, just as my normal life.
- I think that a man might not be as worried about either of the first two photos. I figure that a black woman would probably be more worried about both of them because they have (at least) one extra social disadvantage. The last photo I feel might be more internationally important since there are areas that prevent people from learning how to read or write, whether because they are poor, lower-class, women, or of a different ethnic group.
- Since taking these photos, I’ve thought a lot more about how other people can see the everyday things of my life from wildly different perspectives. It makes me think a bit more how I take for granted a lot of my own privileges, and how other people think differently from me.
I chose these photos because they are raw to me. This is my life, and this is my reality. The everyday people/dogs/family I am grateful for. I am so privileged to have my family. My mom and dad, my boyfriend, and pets. I believe that we all are privileged in some way and some more than others. I'm sure others have easier stories than mine and others have harder stories than mine. While I was feeling down and stressed about my life recently, seeing these pictures and stepping back for a second like, wow there is so much more to be grateful for.
Life can be hard, but I have a lot to appreciate and to be thankful for. My mom and dad who are my best friends, my pets whom all have their own personalities and stories. My boyfriend that sticks by me through my depression no matter what. We have the privilege of having each other and being able to be weird and be against social norms in that way. My grandpa's picture is incredibly vulnerable but just a couple of weeks ago he was released from the Hospital after we had a scare of almost losing him. I was facetiming him in this picture and he had just gotten settled back in at home in a new way. He is just so happy to be back home. My photos relater to my social identity because I am white and privileged, and I am privileged to have the family and support that I do.
I had a discussion with my friend upon suicide before. I believe when one decides to end his/her life, then he/she must have been through so much to make that decision, and to some point, we must respect that. My friend actually studied Buddhism. He tells me that we came to this world to suffer, so we should treat every little joy we receive in our lives as an extra blessing. I know! Heavy words, right! The meaning of living could be really simple such as seeing the morning sun, inhale the cold fresh air, running beside your hometown river... I hope this picture could help those who are suffering from anxiety or depression to feel they are more attached to this world than they thought. Hold on to what you have and always be appreciated.
The three photos that I choose include a photo of my house during Christmas, a photo from a vacation I took and a photo of me at Ohio State. I choose the photo of my living room during Christmas because I think it demonstrates how I am privileged to have parents and a family that can afford to decorate the house and buy presents. I know that there are families out there that cannot afford to make Christmas as fun and happy as it is in my home, so I am very lucky. I also have a family structure that allows the holiday season to be one of cheer and happiness as my married parents, my sister, and I all travel home to be together. My second photo also displays my privilege as it is a photo that I took during a family vacation in Honduras. I am extremely privileged to be able to travel to different parts of the world because it is something that not many people get to experience. The third photo I chose is one of me in front of the Ohio State football stadium. I chose this one because it demonstrates my privilege as I am able to get a college education which not everyone can afford to get.
These three photos, to me, represent how privileged I am in aspects of my life. I have been spending a lot of time thinking about my privilege lately so my strategy for picking photos for this assignment was to choose ones that show this privilege that I am recognizing.
These photos weren’t hard to find but I spent quality time trying to find photos that I’ve taken that would best explore the opportunities that my socioeconomic status has given me.
I think the most meaningful part of this assignment was looking through my photos and contemplating how they may display the privilege I have. I had never thought to check my privilege by looking at photos that I’ve taken, but now I know to look at my photos and memories with more attention focused on why and how I got to be able to take these photos or make these memories.
While doing this assignment, I thought back to page 20 in This Book Is Anti-Racist. Specifically, the section about privilege. The quote “There are parts of us that hold some power and other parts that are oppressed,” connects to this task because I am trying to recognize the parts of my life that do hold power. For this assignment, I focused on how my socioeconomic status has given me power and opportunity.
I think these photos represent the socioeconomic part of my social identity. The fact that my family can afford to go on vacations, pay for my college, and treat each other with gifts on Christmas makes me incredibly lucky because there are a lot of people that don’t live the same life that I do. I truly am privileged to have the family that I have because they allow for me to have opportunities to broaden my horizons whether it means traveling or getting a college education.
Had I not taken this course, I don’t think I ever would have viewed these images as ones that show my privilege. Before, these pictures were just cherished memories, but now I know that these photos show opportunities that I got which other people didn’t.
Someone with a different socioeconomic status than my family may view these photos and think that I am extremely lucky and privileged while others may not see anything. People that don’t have the money to be able to travel, for example, will see my vacation photo differently from someone who has a lot of money and has the ability to travel frequently.
I think it’s so interesting how two people can look at one photo and feel two completely different things. I really think that this comes from our backgrounds and the experiences that we’ve had which have shaped us into who we are today. This idea is new to me after having done this activity. I normally would just see a photo as a photo but there is so much more to the story of each picture that we all see.
For my photos I chose a picture that I took of the beach, a picture with my family and I, and a picture of the beautiful view from the 14th floor of the James Cancer Hospital. All these pictures, in my opinion, represent a meaning a privilege. I believe each picture represents privilege in its own unique way. I think the picture of the beach represents privilege because not everyone has the opportunity to experience vacation every year like me and I am sure many other people. Some people have never gotten the chance to experience a vacation. The picture of my family and I represents privilege because I am privileged enough to have a huge family that has always been there for me no matter what, other people might have had to experience a life without a family. The last picture represents privilege to me because even though my mom suffered from Leukemia, she was able to beat it and be in remission today.
However, I could have lost my mom that day I took that picture, some people are not as lucky as me, and might have lost someone due to cancer. My strategy in picking my photos was to think of all the little ways in my life that I may be more privileged than someone else and why. This was more straight forward for me than a struggle because I enjoy photography and I feel in many ways in my life I have been privileged in experience. I chose not to alter my photos in anyway because I wanted to capture the real and true moment of the pictures. The most meaningful part of this task was that it was brought to my attention that no matter how bad my days may get, I can always think about the experiences I was privileged to go through and still have to this day and that you should never take for granted what you have in this life. The connections that came to mind is how privileged I am as a white person in comparison to a black person. Hearing the word privilege reminds me that I am white, and I already had privilege to begin with, just because of the color of my skin. I feel my photos relate to my social identity because each photo tells a story about some specific moment in my life and what I learned from it. If I had never participated in this course, I feel I would have never realized how privileged I was just by a couple simple photos. These photos open up new and evolving understandings of the world and culture because they show how privilege some people might be in comparison to others. You never understand how privilege you are until you sit down and really think deeply about it.
The perspective I chose is privilege and the first picture is my car which I am very privileged to have because any vehicle is a luxury that many people can’t obtain. The second picture is of the time I went to watch a UC football game with my cousin which is a huge privilege for me because I love sports in general and if I can get a chance to watch it live, I will try to take the advantage because not many can do it. The last is a OSU basketball game that was against Michigan this past season which is a huge privilege because I also get to call OSU my home as a school and watching my favorite sport is something that I will always appreciate. The most interesting thing about this task was how much I have been able to prove that I have privilege in all the photos I have on my phone. If someone who didn't have the same privileges as I do saw they pictures they would probably let me know how much of a privilege I have to even been to or have these memories/items on my phone. They would also tell me that I need to remember all the items I have in my life or places I’ve been can shape me as a person.
Hybrid Arts Lab is a multi-venue teaching lab that experiments with how art is imagined, made, viewed and understood within physical and digital spaces. Venues include Hopkins Hall Gallery, Stillman Hall Tent, and online @ UAS from Home.