My White Friends - an ongoing project by Myra Greene
Throughout my life, I have been questioned on why I have so many white friends, as though my African-American heritage should dictate a different social circle. This line of thought reveals the undertone of racial politics of this nation.
Casual and formal conversations about race in America often focus on the position of the other. These exchanges re-tell sordid personal histories or examine the multiplicity of individual experiences. Most often these conversations position themselves against ideas of whiteness, a concept that is rarely openly discussed, formalized or debated.
My White Friends explores the challenges of describing whiteness and assumptions about social circles. For this body of photographs I ask those close to me who identify as white about the qualities of their racial identity. These color inkjet prints depict confidants, mentors and peers who have shaped my understanding of identity even though we have different racial profiles. The viewer’s reading of the images goes past a person’s physical traits and struggles to convey the peculiarity and power of whiteness.
The analysis of whiteness exists in the balance between the portrait and the surroundings of the image. In some images personal environments suggest traditional arenas of whiteness, dictated by a sense of wealth and power, while other public spaces are neutral. The sitter’s gestures vary from ease to vulnerability and their gaze shifts from evasive to confrontational. The entirety of this project forces me, my friends, and the viewer to examine friendships, unearth stereotypes and question interpretations of this loaded term.
Myra Greene is a Chicago, IL based artist and is an Associate Professor of Photography at Columbia College Chicago.
To view more of Myra's work, please visit her website.