Ayana V. Jackson (b. 1977 in East Orange, New Jersey; lives and works between Brooklyn, NY and Johannesburg, South Africa) uses archival impulses to assess the impact of the colonial gaze on the history of photography. By using her lens to deconstruct 19th and early 20th century portraiture, Jackson questions photography’s authenticity and role in perpetuating socially relevant and stratified identities.
Jackson’s practice maps the ethical considerations and relationships between the photographer, subject and viewer, in turn exploring themes around race, gender and reproduction. Her work examines myths of the Black diaspora and re-stages colonial archival images as a means to liberate the Black body. The various titles of her series nod to the stories she is reimagining. Jackson often casts herself in the role of historical figures to guide their narrative and directly access the impact of photography and its relationship to the human body.
Jackson’s work is collected by major local and international institutions including The Studio Museum in Harlem (New York, New York), The Newark Museum (Newark, New Jersey), J.P.Morgan Chase Art Collection (New York, New York), Princeton University Art Museum (Princeton, New Jersey), The National Gallery of Victoria (Melbourne, Australia), The Museum of Contemporary Photography (Chicago, Illinois) and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (Seattle, Washington). Jackson was a 2014 New York Foundation for the Arts Fellow for Photography and the recipient of the 2018 Smithsonian Fellowship.
In 2022, Jackson founded Still Art, an artist residency program focused on emerging Southern African contemporary artists of all disciplines in Johannesburg. In March 2023 Jackson will open her first major institutional exhibition at the National Museum of African Art - Smithsonian Institution.