Meet the Fellows

Ashkay Bhoan
As a conceptual artist foremost, with a foundation in photography, Bhoan aims to capture the after-effects of trauma and its lingering silence. His primary practice grapples with narratives of existence and loss intimately tied with concepts of identity, perception, politics, and hierarchy. Growing up in a military family, Bhoan experienced life sectioned by movement, living in fifteen cities over thirty years. His emotional response to repeated dislocation has been to study the forces that sculpt movement and understanding of the human need for belonging and home within the social conditions that frame those conceptions. In the photo-book Relapse NYC, Bhoan documented photographic observations in the New York City Subway, which were then layered, sampled, and distorted through artistic interventions. Using democratic and easily accessible materials including a copy machine and scotch tape, the piece was created through a nonlinear mass of black and white xerox-style photographs shot on a cell phone over four years. Condensed to form a body of work, a sculptural block of monochrome, the piece analyses chaos through repeating poetic occurrences, revealing hidden patterns that define social and environmental tendencies, systems and anthropological structures of the city.

Akshay Bhoan on his photobook, Relapse NYC.

Johnnie Chatman
Chatman’s series of self portraits, I Forgot Where We Were…, constructs an archive and body of imagery that explores ideas and notions around landscape and its relationship with black history. This chapter explores the American West which has often been defined by binary and reductionist grids of thought and iconography. Like the black body, the West is a complex, unstable signifier given meaning by those who have lived within it, passed through it, conquered it, settled, farmed, militarized, urbanized, and dreamed it. Black men are often relegated in media and art to the positions of prisoner, gang member, statistic, or protestor. Blackness is commonly shown as a sedentary “object” limited to the confines of an urban environment, pigeonholed between narratives of resistance or resilience. With this portion of the series, Chatman explores how vantage points across  the West act as beacons for explorations of culture, history, and consumerism, as histories have been compressed into marketable cultural capital for international gazers. In pursuing this route the project explores the ambiguity and multiplicity of blackness oscillating between a space of romance and critique, objective research and personal narrative. The project will continue until he has created a portrait in every state.

Odette Chavez-Mayo
A seemingly ordinary portrait becomes remarkable when you are forcibly hidden; a mirror’s reflection – precious, when you haven’t seen your face in decades. The women you witness: Sarah, Jenn, and Pat are serving prison sentences with no end. Chavez-Mayo met the women at Dayton Correctional Institution where she volunteered and subsequently realized her conceptions of prisoners were mistaken. Chavez-Mayo and the women became incredibly close through thoughts, hopes, and regrets shared in discussions. They collaborated on making newspapers and zines and when the opportunity finally arose, in making these portraits.  After months of waiting and jumping through bureaucratic hoops, we were granted two hours in the visiting room with a 4×5 camera. Accessories, makeup, jewelry, and a mirror were available for the women to craft their own image. Making them feel important and allowing them as much agency as possible in the process was crucial. As well as fostering a space where freedom, curiosity, and play could occur despite the constraints of an oppressive institution meant for punishment. Chavez-Mayo’s portrait series interrogates and counters oversimplified, harmful narratives of prisoners through the transgressive act of creating delicate and beautiful images. Our society exploits the invisibility of incarcerated communities by siloing people through narrow stereotypes that promote their objectification, in order to maintain unequal distributions of power. This subjective and oppressive imagery denies people’s humanity and impedes their right to be seen and heard. Chavez-Mayo asks the viewer: Who is invisible? Why? Tied into her principles of beauty, justice, and liberation, Chavez-Mayo harnesses tenderness in her photographic approach as a radical strategy for change and reclaiming the right to expression. 

Odette Chavez-Mayo on her series, We Are Enough.

Luis Manuel Diaz
Over the past four years, Luis Manuel Diaz has intimately tracked his mother, father, brother, and sisters in their home in New Rochelle, NY. Through a highly collaborative and collective process, he documents and has become a record keeper and narrator for his family, creating a new family album that speaks of their shared personal history in relation to immigration. The images celebrate the complexities of their experience as a family, giving personhood and nuanced representation, utilizing a view camera that Diaz operates, but the whole family directs. This process allows them to take ownership of the same tool that has been historically used to categorize and victimize immigrant communities. Through Diaz’s photographs, he visualizes and reconstructs new perspectives, while holding America accountable for the institutional abuse of immigrants. The images explore familial relations and the American landscape through the lens of his immediate family. Culturally specific objects such as religious icons, household products, and framed photographs signify the Mexican diaspora while landscapes bear traces of manual labor and expendable raw materials. A motif of walls and fences reference borders and prisons pervasive in the larger immigrant struggle.

Luis Manuel Diaz on his series, El Otro Lado del Cesped.

Roberta Dorsett and Clarissa B. Aponte
Aponte and Dorsett collaborated on the abstract series Frameless, experimenting with what happens when you negate the camera and the traditional use of photographic film. They used color motion picture film and black and white darkroom chemicals which, when combined, resulted in a range of abstract shapes on the film. This approach was a departure from each  independent work prior to the collaboration. Dorsett typically turns her lens towards providing alternate representations of black communities and environmental concerns, while Aponte documents and explores interpersonal relationships in her family, as well as the neighborhoods she grew up in. By taking this distinct approach, separate from their individual documentary practices, the photographers left behind the idea of controlling the frame or shot, producing frameless photos that embraced chance reactions as a result of the mixture of the different chemicals used. What developed on the emulsion were organic shapes that cannot naturally be found in nature or the manufactured world. The result emphasized the absence of people, typical subjects, and the role of the camera. Each manipulated film strip was scanned, digitally edited and enlarged to present the process as a whole, including missing frames. The minute details in the enlarged filmstrips appear dreamy, opaque, and fluid, prompting the viewer to insert personal meaning in the space, amidst the grounding commitment to interrogating the nature of the photograph. 

Roberta Dorsett and Clarissa Aponte on their series, Frameless.

Jon Henry
Stranger Fruit was created in response to the senseless murders of black men across the nation by police violence. Even with smartphones and dash cams recording the actions, more lives get cut short due to unnecessary and excessive violence. Who is next? Me? My brother? My friends? How do we protect these men? Jon Henry has been exploring the project, Stranger Fruit, over the last five years. Born and raised in Queens, NY, Henry was deeply impacted by the murder of Sean Bell in 2006. While he didn’t know him personally, the murder hit too close to home and has stayed with Henry ever since. He has been traveling across the country photographing and connecting with families, bringing light to the nationwide suffering and retraumatizing of the community that happens when black men and women are murdered by the police.  The series consists of large scale color photographs of mothers and sons, and accompanying texts written by the mothers. While the mothers in the photographs have not lost their sons, the images depict the reality that this could happen to their family. He composes portraits of the mothers with their sons in their environments as well as images of the women alone. Through the text component of the pieces, the women meditate on their love and relationship with their sons as well as their fears and rage around their son’s safety. By including the text, Henry aims to highlight the narratives of mothers, whose survival, grief, and mourning often get lost in the furor of media coverage, lawsuits, and protests.

Antonio Johnson
In 2018, photographer Antonio Johnson embarked on a trip around the United States to gather images and stories from barber shops. Johnson made stops in Gary, Indiana; Washington DC; New York City; Oakland; Atlanta; Los Angeles; Detroit; New Orlean; Montgomery; Memphis, and his hometown of Philadelphia.  He met a toddler in DC on the occasion of his first haircut and a New Orleans barber who’s been in the business for more than half a century. Antonio talked to fathers, sons, husbands, and brothers about what it means to be black men in America and what the barber shop means to them. These conversations resulted in You Next, an intimate photographic exploration of this sacred space. In exploring barber shops, Johnson is interested in capturing how those spaces and the communities within them are constructed and maintained—who’s in the community, how they interact when no one else is looking, and how the visual language of barber shops contribute to the social service they provide. So why, You Next? In black barber shops, “you next” is what a barber says to communicate you’re on deck for a haircut. It’s also used as a question between customers to determine where they are in line —”You next?” You Next is an invitation, an invocation, an affirmation. After waiting your turn in a barber shop, sharing, laughing, and debating, those magic words signify you are about to be transformed.

Rahul Majumdar
Memories of Things Unsaid, is a work-in-progress project around Rahul’s  family. In the series, Rahul follows two parallel threads to express a narrative around his family and his own memories, or lack thereof, with his family members. The first focus is on portraits of the family, while the second is physical locations – meditating on accessibility and inaccessibility of a geography.  My family is a space where intergenerational trauma exists, and it seems like there is a pattern, I sense it and I am exploring it. With geography, I do not have the comfort of a familiar place to return to. I am considering places and spaces not as physical constructs alone, but as emotional ones. It is my belief that the geography of a place is only as relevant as the memory/experience we have of that space. This body of work is akin to Rahul  journaling, with him both guiding the questioning as well as the revelations that come up. He inquires, “Where do we (I) belong? What/Where is home?  How do we access places that do not exist anymore? Or how do we access places that exist but that we have no access to when these places continue to occupy large spaces within our minds?” Through a highly confessional approach, Rahul endeavors to use the tool of photography as a method of healing, of self-expression, and emotional release in order to break intergenerational cycles of trauma. In this way, he hopes to encourage transformation in both himself and others by the work he is making. 

Rahul Majumdar on his series, Memories of things Unsaid.

Josefina Moran
Josefina F Moran is a photo-based artist with a focus in portraiture. For the ongoing series, Portraits of Girls, she looked for ways to convey the vulnerable side of young women, through their gaze and gestures. Inspired by photographers like Hellen van Meene, she explores the emotional tension between innocence and adulthood. In these portraits, Moran would use natural light and unmanipulated images, a strategy that allowed her to freely discover unexpected moments in everyday life and depict people and personal relationships as she saw them. Though her work approach is spontaneous, light and form remain a vital concern. This is seen in the way Moran references the emotional quality of pre-photographic formal classicism in seventeenth-century Dutch portraiture by painters like Johannes Vermeer. Even though I left my adolescence a long time ago, I see myself in them and can recognize my own shifting emotions, my own vulnerability. She has been particularly interested in photographing this time in the girls’ lives because of the challenges and changes that are associated with adolescence. Her goal is to photograph the girls as they are; recording their vulnerability, honesty, and identity. Whenever possible, she photographed at their homes, focusing on ways to convey the unique character of each person. As she constructed the photographs, she would notice details on the ways in which her subjects would reveal their emotional states, whether that be anxiety or confidence. Through those little details, she aimed to capture the nuances in the portraits and the psychological intensity of their presence through their gaze and gestures. 

Josefina Moran, on her series, Portraits of Girls.

Betty Yu
(Dis)Placed in Sunset Park is an intimate look at the impact of accelerated gentrification in Sunset Park, an immigrant neighborhood in Brooklyn. It is a multimedia project that features photography, audio and videos of Yu’s family’s life in the predominantly Chinese and Latinx neighborhood. As a teenager in the 90’s Yu was obsessed with documenting her community taking black and white photographs and amateur Hi-8 video as a high school student. Her family’s story is the visual entry point into grasping the impact of gentrification on the cultural fabric, community life and changing racial demographics. Yu’s family was part of the early wave of Chinese immigrants to move into the 8th Avenue part of Sunset Park back in the late 1970s.  I felt privileged to have grown up in a neighborhood where I had friends from all backgrounds. Growing up I straddled what was often referred to as the “Two Sunset Parks” – the Chinatown part and Latinx section. Her intention is to expand this project and document the impact of gentrification on other families, small businesses and even homeowners who are being pushed out on the Latinx and Chinese side of the neighborhood. Each story is grounded in each person’s own sense of home, sanctuary and refuge that they have found in Sunset Park. The title refers to the way people are being “displaced in” their own community as it changes around them; while others are being crowded into smaller quarters within Sunset Park as well. As someone raised in Sunset Park, Yu is concerned about the way the cultural fabric and life she has known for decades may be transformed in the coming decades. Through her own story and the stories of others, she hopes to capture this culturally-rich, vibrant and diverse community that is being threatened by gentrification.