Snap, Tag, and Share: Join SAM Photo Club!

Dawoud Bey and Carrie Mae Weems are two of the most significant photo-based artists working today. Both born in 1953, Bey and Weems explore complex visions of Black life in America through intimate portraits, dynamic street photography, and conceptual studies of folklore, culture, and historical sites.

SAM Photo Club is an engaging Instagram program where we ask our followers to snap a photo according to exhibition-related themes, tag the photo with #SAMPhotoClub, and share it to their feed. Throughout the run of Dawoud Bey & Carrie Mae Weems: In Dialogue (November 17, 2022–January 20, 2023) at the Seattle Art Museum, we’ll announce photography submissions for three of the defining motifs of their respective careers: self-portraits, street photography, and family and community.

Every week, we’ll share a few of the photographs we’ve been tagged in on our Instagram stories. At the end of the exhibition, we’ll compile the photos we’ve received across all three categories and share them on SAM Blog!

When to participate

  • Friday, November 18: Self-portrait photography
  • Friday, December 9: Street photography
  • Friday, December 30: Family & community photography

How to participate

  • Follow SAM on Instagram and keep an eye out for each theme announcement
  • Share your photographs with #SAMPhotoClub!

Watch the teaser below to get a glimpse of what you’ll see when you visit In Dialogue at SAM beginning Thursday, November 17. Get your tickets now to find all of the inspiration you need for your own submission in SAM’s galleries!

– Lily Hansen, SAM Marketing Content Creator

Photos: Self and Shadow, New York, NY, 1980, Dawoud Bey, American, born 1953, gelatin silver print, 20 x 24 inches, © Dawoud Bey, courtesy of Stephen Daiter Gallery. The Kitchen Table Series: Untitled (Woman and Daughter with Children), 1990, Carrie Mae Weems, American, born 1953, platinum print, 38.1 x 38.1 cm (15 x 15 in.), © Carrie Mae Weems. Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York.

Dawoud Bey and Carrie Mae Weems: Artists, Friends, and Inspirations

Two young artists meet in a photography class and become friends. It happens all the time. But the two people aren’t always Dawoud Bey and Carrie Mae Weems, who from that meeting at the Studio Museum in Harlem in 1976 would go on to become two of the most celebrated photo-based artists working today. Over the next 46 years, Bey and Weems pursued their own practices, their artistic interests overlapping and diverging as they continued to be sources of friendship and inspiration to each other. Dawoud Bey & Carrie Mae Weems: In Dialogue, coming to SAM as part of a national tour, marks the first time their work—the subject of numerous solo and group exhibitions—has been shown in dialogue together. You are invited into their career-long conversations about art, culture, and history, all grounded in the lived experiences of Black Americans.

In Dialogue is organized in five thematic pairings. It explores the artists’ early work, as both Bey and Weems captured scenes of street life and domestic scenes with passers-by and family as subjects. Weems’ groundbreaking Kitchen Table series (1990), a fictional photo essay about women and their self-perceptions, signals a new direction combining text and image.

The artists have a mutual interest in the history of Black people in America and how history and lived experience manifests in landscapes and urban environments. Sites of historical importance surface in other contexts: Weems’ Sea Islands series (1991–1992) features locales of Gullah culture on the islands off the coasts of Georgia and South Carolina. To her lyrical images she adds accounts of oral history, mythology, and song. The history of slavery is confronted in Weems’ representations of 19th-century photographs of enslaved people—jarring images that turned the individuals into objects of racist study. In contrast, Bey’s Night Coming Tenderly, Black series (2017) turns the viewer in the position of a fugitive, arriving at nightfall at sites that were thought to be on the Underground Railroad, a network aiding enslaved people to freedom during the 19th century. In Weems’ most recent series, Roaming, she stages her own body within the city of Rome—a reminder of the city’s history, power, conquest, and domination from ancient to modern times.

Also on view in the exhibition are works that express the importance of commemoration in Black culture. Bey’s Birmingham Project (2019) memorializes the deaths of six young Black Americans murdered in the Alabama city in 1963, with portraits of present-day Birmingham-area children placed in diptychs with adults at the age the young people would have been today. Weems’ Constructing History series (2008) focuses on well-known images of 20th-century tragedies such as the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr. and John F. Kennedy, reenacting them with students and community members in Atlanta.

“The work of these two artists and friends have never been more relevant as we consider the meaning of multiple histories in our lives and surroundings,” says Catharina Manchanda, SAM’s Jon and Mary Shirley Curator of Contemporary Art.

– Rachel Eggers, SAM Associate Director of Public Relations

This article first appeared in the October 2022 through January 2023 article of SAM Magazine and has been edited for our online readers. Become a SAM member today to receive our quarterly magazine delivered directly to your mailbox and other exclusive member perks.

Photo: Couple in Prospect Park, 1990 (printed 2018), Dawoud Bey, American, born 1953, gelatin silver print, 21 7/8 x17 ½ inches, Grand Rapids Art Museum, museum purchase, 2018.22. © Dawoud Bey, courtesy of Stephen Daiter Gallery.

Imogen Cunningham: Double Image, Sutter St. and Fillmore

Imogen Cunningham often took photographs of unsuspecting strangers on the street. Uncomfortable with confrontation, she found beauty in capturing daily public life without interference. At times, she used windows, spun around, or bent over and pretended to be searching for something in her purse to distract from the sound of her camera’s click. She called these surreptitious photographs “stolen pictures.”

Double Image, Sutter St. and Fillmore marks a stark contrast from Cunningham’s typical street photographs. In this image, her subject—a Black woman dressed in a long coat, stockings, and heels—has spotted Cunningham. Waiting for the bus, her right eyebrow is raised as she looks directly into the camera.

The woman’s stare is intensified as the image is cleverly reflected off of a storefront window, dividing the composition down the center, and creating a “doubled” illusion. Cunningham was fascinated with this effect and often used mirrors or glass to create this perspective.

In this audio recording produced by the J. Paul Getty Museum, Chris Johnson, chair of the photography department at the California College of the Arts, discusses Cunningham’s “stolen pictures” and the changing dynamic shared between Cunningham and her subject after being spotted. Tune in to all 13 recordings as part of the free smartphone tour of Imogen Cunningham: A Retrospective when you visit the exhibition at our downtown location through February 6.

Double Image, Sutter St. and Fillmore, ca. 1940

Narrator: Taken in Cunningham’s San Francisco neighborhood, this photograph captures two figures waiting for a bus. On the right, a man wearing a hat holds a paper bag. In the center, a woman stands dressed in a winter coat with her purse at her feet.

Chris Johnson: She’s giving Imogen a very strong direct gaze and there’s nothing reticent about that gaze and I think Imogen liked that because she was a strong outspoken woman herself.

Narrator: The image is doubled in the reflection of the storefront window on the left. Cunningham was fascinated with this effect, something she first encountered in the compositions of eighteenth-century Japanese prints. She often used mirrors or glass to create this perspective. The doubling effect places the woman in the center of the image and creates a dynamic between individuals, including the photographer.

Chris Johnson: The implied relationship between the photographer and the woman who’s giving her that gaze… between the black woman and the white man who is presumably ignoring both of them, Imogen and this black woman are in their own world. The white man is in his other world. He has his back turned to us. So Imogen is affirming her allegiance to this black [woman] and I really think the meaning of the image resides there.

Narrator: These “stolen pictures”, as Cunningham called her street scenes, were sometimes taken without the subject’s knowledge and represented a stylistic departure for her. But in this case, the central figure directly confronts Cunningham, and us.

Chris Johnson: Isn’t this a clear example of photographic seeing, you know, the way that the camera sees differently than the way eyeballs see?

– Lily Hansen, SAM Marketing Content Creator

Photo: Double Image, Sutter St. and Fillmore, ca. 1940, Imogen Cunningham, American, 1883–1976, gelatin silver print, 7 3/4 × 7 1/2 in., Collection of the Oakland Museum of California, Gift of the Junior League of Oakland, A67.130.33, © 2021 The Imogen Cunningham Trust.

Join SAM Photo Club!

Imogen Cunningham was well known for encouraging the creativity of others and endlessly pursuing inspiration. SAM is honoring this influential photographer by encouraging you to hit us with your best shot.

While Imogen Cunningham: A Retrospective is on view at Seattle Art Museum, we’ll announce submissions to four of the defining genres of Cunningham’s career: portraits, botanicals, street photography, and dance. At the end of the exhibition, members of the exhibition advisory board will select their top five favorite submitted images and we’ll feature them here on SAM Blog!

Imogen Cunningham’s striking portraits are among the most celebrated in the history of photography. In her photographs of plant life, Cunningham abstracted the natural world and offered a unique way of seeing through the art of photography. Through avant-garde and candid portrayals of city life in her street photography, Cunningham offered images of diverse communities in San Francisco and beyond. And as champion of other artists, Cunningham’s spark of creative possibility generated a wide sphere of influence as her photographs of dancers brought attention to her own work and the work of dance artists.

When to participate

  • November 15: Portrait photography
  • December 6: Botanical photography
  • December 27: Street photography
  • January 15: Dance photography

How to participate

  • Follow us on Instagram & keep an eye out for each genre announcement
  • Share your photographs with #SAMPhotoClub

Imogen Cunningham: A Retrospective showcases the endless innovation and profound influence of this remarkable photographer who pushed the boundaries for both women in the arts and photography as an art form. Nearly 200 of Cunningham’s insightful portraits, elegant flower and plant studies, poignant street pictures, and groundbreaking nudes present a singular vision developed over seven decades of work. Get tickets to the first major retrospective in the United States of Cunningham’s work in 35 years and find some inspiration for your submission to #SAMPhotoClub.

Looking for an art prompt to focus your lens? Check out this activity we created for artists of all ages back when we were in quarantine!

– Chelsea Werner-Jatzke, SAM’s Digital Marketing Manager

Self-Portrait with Korona View, 1933, Imogen Cunningham, American, 1883–1976, gelatin silver print, 4 × 3 5/16 in., Collection of The Imogen Cunningham Trust, © 2021 The Imogen Cunningham Trust. Stan, San Francisco, 1959, Imogen Cunningham, American, 1883–1976, gelatin silver print, 9 1/2 × 7 1/16 in., Collection of The Imogen Cunningham Trust, © 2021 The Imogen Cunningham Trust. Magnolia Blossom, (detail) negative 1925; print 1930, Imogen Cunningham, American, 1883–1976, gelatin silver print, 9 5/16 × 11 5/8 in., Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, Museum purchase, M.H. de Young Memorial Museum, 54042, Photo: Randy Dodson, © 2021 The Imogen Cunningham Trust. Jump Rope, New York, 1956, Imogen Cunningham, American, 1883–1976, gelatin silver print, 7 1/2 × 7 3/8 in., Seattle Art Museum, Gift of John H. Hauberg, 89.39, © (1956), 2009 Imogen Cunningham Trust. 1952, Imogen Cunningham, American, 1883–1976, gelatin silver print, 7 5/8 × 7 5/8 in., Collection of The Imogen Cunningham Trust, © 2021 The Imogen Cunningham Trust. Dancer, Mills College, 1929, Imogen Cunningham, American, 1883–1976, gelatin silver print, 8 9/16 × 7 3/8 in., The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, 2006.25.6, © 2021 The Imogen Cunningham Trust.

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