Benelli Visiting Writers Series: Emack discusses life as a photographer and writer
Kristen Joy Emack discussed both her photography and her life as a photographer with students this week as the guest writer of the Benelli Writing Center’s Visiting Writers Series.
A 2022 Guggenheim fellow, Emack spoke with faculty and various student club members Dec. 8 followed by meetings with art, English, and history classes Dec. 9. She discussed how she became a "mostly self-taught" photographer; what drives her to create; and her artistic choices, including her decision to shoot only in black and white. Emack also spoke of how writing and photography intersect and inform one another in her work.
The discussions took place in the Karen and Ted Koskores Gallery, where Emack’s photographic exhibit “Cousins” currently hangs. The photos are of Emack’s daughter and three nieces.
“I’ve been photographing my daughter and nieces for a decade,” Emack writes in her artist’s statement. “There’s something sacred about the lives of girls, and their innocent, confident relationships to themselves, their world, and one another is gravitational.”
Emack noted that while there are many photographic works dealing with girlhood, many follow an “end-of-innocence” arc which ends with dating or some other external, societal force, which Emack termed “a distraction.”
“This work doesn’t end that same way,” said Emack. “We don’t grow up just so that we can be distracted.”
Another distinction, said Emack, is that “Cousins” chronicles the lives of girls of color, which Emack said “is a perspective that still remains under-embraced.”
Students engaged with Emack through multiple lenses, including writing, history, current issues, popular culture, Black girlhood, portraiture, artistic intentions, and photographic techniques.
Upper School History Faculty and BWC Director Karen Jersild originated the Visiting Writers Series and has run the program ever since. This year, Jersild collaborated with Upper School Visual Arts and New Media Department Head Anni Zukauskas ‘94 P ‘28, ‘29 to expand the program beyond the traditional practice of inviting a book author. This collaboration, said Jersild, embodies the series’ cross-curricular mission to allow students to discover writing in many forms as a medium of creative expression and communication.
This year, teachers and students have a unique opportunity to continue interacting with the Benelli Visiting Writer's work, as the exhibit will continue into January. "Cousins," other series, and Emack's writing are also accessible on her website. Significantly, this year's event and ongoing exhibit invite teachers to view the gallery as an extension of their classrooms where students can experience multimodal learning.
A closing reception for Emack’s exhibit is planned for late January.