Faces of Emory

Portraits showcase campus diversity

Dawoud Bey

Juxtaposition can create a powerful impression.

That’s what celebrated photographer Dawoud Bey sought with the Emory Project, a series of thirty-six portraits of pairs of Emory’s people, many of whom had never met. Bey spent a month at the University last spring as an artist in residence, creating a visual record of the community’s diversity by pairing figures from vastly different parts of the campus—from maintenance workers to students, poets to administrators. 

Above, Kali Ahset Amen Strayhorn 12PhD, a graduate student in sociology who studies political and economic inequity, joins Geshe Ngawang Phende, a Buddhist monk, in the Schwartz Center for Performing Arts. Bey particularly wanted to photograph a Buddhist monk because of Emory’s significant ties to Tibet and also Atlanta’s Drepung Loseling Monastery, where Geshe Phende is a resident teacher.

“The main thing was that Dawoud wanted the pairs to be very different from one another as far as position, ethnicity, age, that sort of thing,” says Mary Catherine Johnson, assistant director for the Visual Arts Department and Gallery.

The Emory Project was commissioned by the Department of Visual Arts in partnership with the Transforming Community Project, a five-year initiative to examine race and difference across the University. Bey, who began his career in 1975 with the series Harlem, USA, is a professor of photography at Columbia College Chicago; his work has been exhibited around the world and is included in the permanent collections of numerous museums including the Art Institute of Chicago and Atlanta’s High Museum of Art.

The photos in the Emory Project, on display in the Visual Arts Gallery from February 3 through March 5, will become part of the University’s public art collection.

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