As I was already familiar with these images from class and what they were meant to be seen as or rather what they were used for, I found Carrie Mae Weems appropriation of these images to be transformational. I think she transformed them to tell a story and humanize the people in them. When I saw them in class, we discussed them in a scientific way. We all agreed that the subjects were slaves and specimens studied due to the way the pictures were taken. While we all are aware of the abuse that slaves had to endure, these same pictures didn’t really convey that, without the text she added. She made a clear distinction, with the titles she gave each image. She added a depth and gave these same images a totally different meaning, adding a different element and a different dimension. She showed how in this same scientific study that seemed harmless, because the point of taking the photos was to prove a theory, these photos were derogatory in their own right. She removes the scientific element in her collection. Their posture, their expressions, the image themselves; showing them with their masters and families paints an entirely different picture with the added text.
I found it difficult to read the text and look at the images at the same time. I had to look at the collection a few times. The first time I tried to do both but I couldn’t connect the two. I had to read the text first and then analyze the image, to kind of interpret what she was trying to convey. I think that was because I was familiar with some of the images already, and because in some images so much of the text overlapped the image. I think without the text you are allowed to create your own story and assumptions about what is happening in the photos, without having an emotional connection. She brings that emotional aspect to these images.
Personally, I liked the collection.I think it is very powerful. I think it evoked something from me that I didn’t really expect it to. It showed me how significant text can be and how the same piece of work can be so different, with a few changes. The pictures themselves didn’t change, but she changed the color, and added text, and really made you realize what was happening during this time period. She brings an awareness and compassion to the viewer in a way that was not there before. From listening to her first, I got a sense that was what she was trying to convey, but after actually seeing them, I think she nailed it. I think she was really able to convey that in her work, and I think I would’ve gotten that without hearing her statement first. Her work speaks for itself.