Photographer Steph Foster MFA 19 PH reflects on racism in America and brings his stories of hope to Design Indaba 2019.
New Grads Present Fresh Perspectives
On June 19 the Griffin Museum of Photography in Winchester, MA is presenting Fresh Perspectives from RISD, a panel discussion focused on the work of three new MFA graduates.
The unofficial focus of the discussion is impressions of America, with Steph Foster MFA 19 PH presenting his vision of the African-American experience and Europeans Viktor Hübner MFA 19 PH and Izabela Jurcewicz MFA 19 PH offering outsider points of view.
“I use my art to tell stories that... contest the dehumanization and erasure of black people.”
The opportunity arose this spring when the Griffin’s Director of Programs Julie Williams-Krishnan participated in RISD’s Fine Arts Portfolio Review and was wowed by the work of the young photographers she met. “Museums and galleries are interested in artists like these three recent grads who are making work that addresses challenging issues,” notes Kevin Jankowski 88 IL, the director of RISD Careers who helps to organize the annual event. “They are exploring important topics and have a lot to say.”
Foster has a lot to say about racism in America and the prison-industrial complex that is swallowing up a huge chunk of the country’s black population.
A recent speaker at Design Indaba in Cape Town, South Africa and winner of both the 2019 Snider Prize from the Museum of Contemporary Photography and RISD’s T.C. Colley Award for Photographic Excellence, he’s presenting a multimedia project called The Eyes Beneath the Oak that “brings to the foreground the deliberate and systematic exploitation of black bodies” and connects the legacy of slavery to contemporary mass incarceration.
“I am personally invested in deconstructing white supremacy because it impacts my life on a daily basis,” Foster explains. “I use my art to tell stories that will support the fight for liberation and contest the dehumanization and erasure of black people.”
Hübner’s view of America is based on a recent series of cross-country hitchhiking trips and the many hospitable strangers he encountered along the way. The Americans I Met takes advantage of his status as a (white) foreigner—from Nümbrecht, Germany—allowing him “to become an eyewitness to the practical and spiritual lives of many Americans and a bearer of many confidences.”
The key to Hübner’s documentary style, he says, “is to really listen to the people at the heart of a story or event without distorting the picture too much with my own presence and point of view.”
Polish photographer Izabela Jurcewicz intentionally employs her personal perspective to approach such issues as identity, body, memory and disease. She’s using the Griffin Museum forum to discuss her poignant and very personal graduate thesis project, Body as a Negative, in which she returns to traumatic memories and experiences of being an inter-organ tumor patient.
“I replace the surgical instrument with my camera as a device to register, merge and enable a ritual of healing.”
“By returning to these memories and re-performing them under controlled studio conditions,” Jurcewicz explains, “I transform them on a cellular level, so my body can regain balance. In this act of return, I replace the invasive surgical instrument with my camera as a receptive device to register, merge and enable a ritual of healing.”