Do You Know Our Names?

Do You Know Our Names? is a response to the central role played by ethnographic photography within colonial projects. Twenty years of study and contact with the visual legacies of colonialism all come to bear in this project. There is a visual arch operating in the work that moves between calling attention to the violence of the original image and moving past it into a gesture of healing and redemption. Photographic reproductions found in the German anthropology book Die Völker der Erde, are enlarged into new reproductions which are then painted over. The series retraces the steps of 19th C photographers who frequently hand-colored their photographs. Whereas the goal for them was a heightened fidelity to the image, the images of women in Do You Know Our Names? are radically altered through the painting. The portraits effect a type of rehabilitation of the humanity, individuality and beauty of the women originally depicted. Transformed with contemporary clothing, fashionable hairstyles and makeup, the women make a shift from anonymous anthropological subject into a modern individual that commands the viewer’s attention.