Expanding the Walls: Making Connections Between Photography, History and Community is an annual, eight-month program in which New York high school students explore the history and techniques of art and photography. Since the program’s founding in 2001, the James VanDerZee archive—housed at the Studio Museum—has been the primary catalyst for the students’ critical reflections on the representation of culture and community. Informed by VanDerZee’s iconic body of work, the students learn the intricacies of digital photography and develop their own artistic practices, creating a solid foundation for future artistic endeavors.
The title of this year’s exhibition, No Filter, is borrowed from social media, where it is used to denote a striking photograph that is even more extraordinary—and exceptional—for not having been digitally altered. No Filter presents the students’ distinct and undiluted perspectives on family, race, gender and perceptions of beauty. The artists mediate entry into their homes, neighborhoods, peer groups and families, simultaneously documenting and commenting on their lives.
No Filter was organized by Expanding the Walls participants Arnell Calderon, Hope Calderon, Wesley Coram, Bryant Corona, Dautchley “Max” Desmarais, Kelvin Hady, Paulette Henk, Aviolah Joseph, Nicholas Reyes, Clifford Temple, Jeremy Valencia and Totieyanna Whatley; with Gerald Leavell, Expanding the Walls / Youth Programs Coordinator; Abbe Schriber, Curatorial Assistant; and Monique Long, Curatorial Fellow.