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Omar Victor Diop: Black Subjects in the Frame

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The relationship between the state and the Black subject is, in many ways, still a highly contested one. What can we draw from historic imagery in order to move forward?

In this HENI Talk, Dr Mark Sealy examines Black identity during moments of social upheaval and confrontation, as represented in the oeuvre of artist Omar Victor Diop. In his photographic portraits, Diop uses his own body to restage charged moments in history in a quest for us to look at and learn from these events afresh. His work encourages the viewer to question the narrative of history that we are traditionally taught and see Black people themselves as the agents of change -- exploring, for example, the role of Black slaves during the first major revolt in Haiti in the 1790s, or the grassroots dimension of the US civil rights movement in the 1960s, or the often hidden presence of Black women in the history of activism.

Press play to hear some of the ways the framing of Black identity through history has hindered, obscured and liberated the lives of many people across the globe.


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Dr Mark Sealy MBE is interested in the relationship between photography and social change, identity politics, race, and human rights. He has been director of London-based photographic arts charity Autograph ABP since 1991 and has produced numerous artist publications, curated exhibitions, and commissioned photographers and filmmakers worldwide, including the critically acclaimed Human Rights Human Wrongs exhibition curated for Ryerson Image Centre, Toronto, in 2013 and The Photographers' Gallery, London, in 2015. He jointly initiated and developed a £7.96 million capital building project (Rivington Place), which opened in 2007 in London. He has written for international photography publications, including Foam MagazineApertureCreative Camera and Next Level, and written numerous essays for publications and artist monographs. In 2002, Sealy and professor Stuart Hall co-authored Different, which focuses on photography and identity politics. Recent notable projects include curating The Unfinished Conversation: Encoding / Decoding for the Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery in Toronto (Canada) and critically acclaimed exhibitions on the works of James Van Der Zee, Gordon Parks, Carrie Mae Weems, Rotimi Fani -- Kayode and on the works of Mahtab Hussain and Maud Sulter.

Sealy has served as a photography jury member for World Press Photo, the Carmignac Gestion photojournalism award, the Hasselblad Foundation's Photography Award, and the Sony World Photo award. In 2015, he chaired the Kraszna-Krausz Foundation Book award and joined the Open Society Foundation's Documentary Photography Project Advisory Board. In 2017 he was Chair of the Hasselblad Awards. Sealy has guest lectured at various institutions around the world such as the Museum of Contemporary Photography in Chicago, Royal College of Art London, Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery Toronto, and Tate Britain/Modern. He has curated exhibitions for international photography festivals across the globe such Arles, France; Kyoto, Japan; Drik, Bangladesh and Bamako, Mali. He has devised global photography MA studies program for academic institutions and mentored a range of artists and curators over many years. He was awarded the Hood Medal by the Royal Photographic Society and a Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE) which was awarded for services to photography in 2013. His PhD, from Durham University, focused on photography and cultural violence was gained in 2016.

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