Photo exhibition explores intimacies of Black life

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Joshua Rashaad McFadden (American, b. 1990); Alena holds her son, Tamaj (Washington, D.C.), 2020; From Unrest in America: March on Washington (Photo courtesy of RIT)

With his new solo exhibition, Rochester photographer Joshua Rashaad McFadden continues a multilayered exploration of Black life in America that has been a hallmark of his career. The exhibit, which opened Nov. 5 at the George Eastman Museum, examines the roles of race, sexuality, and gender in the lives of Black Americans.

An assistant professor of photography at RIT, McFadden spent much of last year photographing Black Lives Matter protests, one of several visual artists who felt compelled to go to Minneapolis following the death of George Floyd.

Joshua Rashaad McFadden

Camera in hand, he joined protests there and later continued that work in Rochester documenting events in the wake of revelations that Daniel Prude had died after being placed in police custody. Considering himself not only an artist but also a social justice advocate and change agent, McFadden shares in the feelings of pain, anger, and hopelessness expressed by protesters. Through this empathy he connects to his subjects, creating images that bring the viewer into the moment.

Beyond just a documentary of recent events, the exhibit serves as a retrospective of McFadden’s early career and features work from several series, including the award-winning “After Selma” and the autobiographical series “Love Without Justice,” which will make its debut at the George Eastman Museum. His work considers Black masculinity, as well as the violence and racism that Black Americans have experienced throughout the nation’s history, while celebrating the tenderness, power, and love within the Black community.

“Black Americans face many hardships because of the social construction of racism in the United States,” McFadden says. “I believe visitors will leave this exhibition understanding more about the intimacies of Black life in the United States.”

A Rochester native, McFadden has received three first-place International Photography Awards and was previously named one of LensCulture’s top emerging talents. His work has also been featured in the New York Times, Vanity Fair, and National Geographic, among other publications. In 2018, he won the Communication Arts Award of Excellence for his “I Am A Man” series with Smithsonian Magazine.

“Joshua Rashaad McFadden: I Believe I’ll Run On” will be on display at the George Eastman Museum Main Gallery through spring 2022.

Roblyn Powley is a student at St. John Fisher College.

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