Student photographers explore youth, stereotype, family, gender, architecture, immigrant identity and the metaphysical in Shift in Focus, an exhibition featuring the work of James VanDerZee and the youth participants of Expanding the Walls: Making Connections Between Photography, History and Community. Organized by the participants, the exhibition offers individual interpretations of moments in their everyday lives in a process of self-exploration, community-building and discovery—for both students andexhibition viewers.
“Pairing VanDerZee’s classic prints with the work of these young photographers creates a dialogue between two eras separated by nearly 100 years. This conversation asks us to consider the distance we have traveled from the turbulence of the early 20th century to the restlessness of the early 21st and question the degree to which we have grown,” says Russell Watson, ETW and Youth Program Coordinator.
Every year The Studio Museum in Harlem invites New York City high school students to participate in Expanding the Walls. The exhibition is the culmination of an eight-month intergenerational exchange that employs the work of renowned Harlem photographer James VanDerZee as a catalyst for discussions about community, identity, history and culture. Photographs by the young participants are on view alongside selections from the VanDerZee archive, placing a contemporary lens on VanDerZee’s visual commentaries on community and race. The exhibition creates a collective voice that reaches across time, bringing months of art-making, social critique and museum education to fruition. Defining and redefining notions of community, Shift in Focus offers viewers personal statements that celebrate individuality, challenge norms and capture the spirit of the participants’ worlds.
Expanding the Walls is supported by The Peter Jay Sharp Foundation, Time Warner Inc., New York State Council on the Arts, a state agency, and the Eathon Hall Memorial Fund.