Ayana V Jackson’s work examines the complexities of photographic representation and the role of the camera in constructing identity. Using performance and studio-based portraiture, her practice can be seen as a map of the ethical considerations and relationships involved between the photographer, subject and viewer.
With a particular interest in the 19th and early 20th century representation of black bodies, Jackson steps into the world of her reference materials as a way to question the role the history of photography and fine art played in the construction of race and gender stereotype.
Through her portraits and photo montages,
“Jackson [gives] us an imperfect, unfulfilled, virtual journey. She is in search of the grail of being while bound to the rack of nonbeing ... It is this sense of constantly losing the ground beneath one’s feet, this unerring sense of dancing in a void, which gives Jackson’s art its profound melancholy... “
– Ashraf Jamal
Born in the US, based between Johannesburg, New York and Paris, Jackson’s work can be found in the collections of the Detroit Institute of Art, the Hessel Museum of Art, the Studio Museum in Harlem, New Jersey’s Newark Museum, Chicago's Museum of Contemporary Photography, The Blachere Foundation in France, Princeton University, The University of South Africa (UNISA), Morocco's Museum of African Contemporary Art Al Maaden in Marrakech, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, along with varied corporate collections including JP Morgan Chase Collection and Lucent Technologies.
The Johannesburg Art Gallery (JAG), Museum of Contemporary African Diaspora Art (MoCADA), and the Philadelphia African American Museum among others have also included her in curated exhibitions.
She has had the honour of receiving the 2018 Smithsonian Artist Research Fellowship, the National Black Arts Festival’s 2017 Fine Art and Fashion Award, and the 2014 New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship for Photography.
She has received grants from the Marguerite Casey Foundation, InterAmerica Foundation, US State Department as well as the French Institute, the latter supporting her participation in the 2009 Bamako African Photography Biennial.
Public art exhibitions include, "Not a Single Story" at South Africa's Nirox Sculpture Park, “The Space Between Us”, in association with the Ifa Gallery (Berlin/ Stuttgart) and Round 32 of Project Rowhouses in Houston’s 3rd ward (USA).
Her photography has been published in the form of the exhibition catalogue for “Poverty Pornography & Archival Impulse” produced as a collaborative effort between her Paris and Johannesburg galleries (2013) as well as the exhibition catalogue for her series “African by Legacy, Mexican by Birth” (produced in collaboration with writer/filmmaker Marco Villalobos in 2006).
Academic journals include “Transition Magazine" (Hutchins Center, Harvard University), "n.paradoxa", “Souls: A Critical Journal of Black Politics, Culture, and Society” (Columbia University) and the Massachusetts Review.
Jackson has also been featured in art reviews such as Art South Africa, Art + Auction, Camera Austria, Afrique in Visu, Proximo Futuro/Next Future (Gulbenkian Foundation), Dutch based ZAM magazine, and the New York Times Lens Blog.