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Common Reading 2020: Lakin Starling

"Photographer Liz Johnson Artur On Capturing Beautiful Moments Of Everyday Black Life Around The World"

Looking back, of course, I started from a personal perspective, but I do think that my photographs have outgrown this perspective. I do see my work as compiling a photographic archive. It represents a perspective that I believe is missing when it comes to representing and occupying common ground.  

—Liz Johnson Artur

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Answer to the Picture Riddle Challenge: Camera!

Author: Lakin Starling

Photo by Blaire Monroe

Lakin Starling is a Philadelphia raised and Brooklyn-based journalist, creative writer, and music curator. In addition to writing feature stories and essays, she’s expanding her skills and interests to taking a role as the lead playlist curator for SoundCloud (AURAS), culture writer at Mic, and a member of the editorial writer’s room for Netflix’s Strong Black Lead. 

Introduction: Gordon Wenzel

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Gordon Wenzel is an Adjunct Faculty in Photography at Susquehanna University. He has owned his own professional photography business for over two decades and has had the privilege of photographing multiple U.S. presidents, celebrities, and CEOs. Outside of Susquehanna and photography, he enjoys traveling with his wife and daughter, skiing, biking, hiking, and scuba diving. 

Questions and Topics for Discussion

1. What do these images make you think of? 

2. Photography as a medium has many pros and cons. What are the pros and cons of using photography to convey a message?

3.  Can this artist's work help to continue the conversation about race and ethnicity in the United States, considering that the work depicts images from all over the world?

Classroom Activities

1. Have students discuss what these images mean to them.

2. In small groups, Watch Rare Earth Episode and read the Forbes article. Discuss their messages and how diversity and art can come together to not only further a discussion but also create a safe space for protest.

3. Have students tell the class what diversity means to them and how they. 

Introduction

Curiosity comes naturally for the new and exciting. Anyone that has experienced their GO program was undoubtedly eager to learn new things about an exotic locale, its people, culture, and history. Sadly though, that which is familiar is often overlooked, considered unimportant, and taken for granted. In psychology, this is called habituation: the diminished response to frequently repeated stimuli. As a result, the beauty in everyday life is easily missed and obscured. 

Lakin Starkling’s interview with photographer Liz Johnson Artur highlights the value of being curious about that which is mundane. Through her photography, Artur makes a deliberate investigation of friendships, families, events, and experiences of “everyday life.” By looking beyond obvious and pre-conceived notions, her work resonates with authenticity as it celebrates the diversity and beauty of all things common. 

As you read this interview, I encourage you to reflect on your own experiences of “normality.”  Consider how you can be meaningfully engaged in your academic and extracurricular activities.  Can curiosity better inform your exploration of those singular moments that seem superficially ordinary?   

Think about how you can share your experiences here at SU in a more purposeful way. Although you may never be a photographer like Artur, could curiosity influence you to be more deliberate in the moments you post on social media?  Can you learn to truly see the beauty that is around us and our campus community? 

—Gordon Wenzel

Photographer: Liz Johnson Artur

Liz Johnson Artur is a Ghanian-Russian photojournalist and artist based in London, England. Her art documents the lives of black people from across the African Diaspora, celebrating the normal, the vibrant and the subtle nuances of the lives of people she encounters. Her monograph with Bierke Verlag was included on the list of Best Photo Books of 2016 by the New York Times 

Additional Resources

Forbes: The Truth About Diversity -- And Why It Matters

Across the globe there are millions of people who speak different languages, have different religions, and different lives than one another, no two people are the same as everyone brings different experiences with them. Diversity helps us not only learn about other people but it also helps to nurture understanding and compassion. See why Forbes magazine also agrees with the importance of having diversity and why it should be celebrated.