Photography and Text by Danielle Cano-Garraway
The subjects of my project are all black students currently enrolled at the University of Pennsylvania. During a time where black lives aren’t being heard as loud as they should be, I thought it was important to find a way for their voices and stories to be heard. I, too, have faced a plethora of obstacles as a black student at a predominantly white institution. These obstacles go beyond the uproar of horrendous events that are broadcasted on the news and through social media. These are obstacles that People of Color face on a daily basis through micro-aggressions, prejudice actions, and blatant racism and discrimination on campus – a place that is meant to make every student feel safe.
Each person in this series has had a very different experience on campus and the stories they shared serve as a reflection of that. I hoped to capture what being a black student at Penn meant to each person with each shot. I have decided against sharing a written description of each person in hopes that the pictures will share their story for them. I will, however, share that despite how different each story was, there was a strong common theme throughout each person’s story.
When taking the shots, I gave very little instruction about how they should pose, look, or move. I simply asked them to reflect on what being a black student at Penn meant to them and then proceeded with the shoot. As photographer, I wanted to capture genuine emotions by not interfering too much as the subjects took on this task. I told them that there was no right or wrong was to approach this task. Each session was different for everyone, but it was clear how there wasn’t just a single emotion that depicted their experience at Penn as a student of color.
Although this a time that has brought many people together to fight for what they believe in, I have no group shots. The reason I did this is because during a time when there is group is fighting for the same cause it becomes easy for people to become categorized and clumped into a box. “The Protesters” “ The Black Lives Matters Activists” “ The Black Students on Campus” “The People of Color” “Those People” “Them” I wanted to remove the notion of placing everyone into a single category. This, however, is not meant to discredit the power and importance of being surrounded by people that uplift you, share your experiences and are fighting for something that you are strongly passionate about. For the purposes of this project I wanted to focus more on the stories of the individuals. After looking at each section, the viewer then has the power to then see how the pieces of something much larger than just a single person fit together.
Photography and Text by Danielle Cano-Garraway, Copyright 2016
About The Author: Danielle Cano-Garraway is a Junior majoring in Cognitive Science at the University of Pennsylvania, Class of 2017. To read Part One of this article, go to the search bar at the bottom of the page, type in author’s name: click the search icon.