diversity & race | January 10, 2017

Sarah Lewis’s “Vision & Justice” Is “the visual analog for Black Lives Matter” — The Boston Globe

Last summer, Harvard professor and bestselling author Sarah Lewis guest-edited “Vision & Justice,” a special issue of Aperture magazine dedicated to photography depicting black experiences. Its impact, half a year later, and in such a fraught cultural moment, is undeniable.

The issue sold 20,000 copies in less than two months, and quickly became required reading for freshmen at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. In the fall, Lewis turned it into a course at Harvard, entitled “Vision & Justice: The Art of Citizenship.” And she’s far from done: further Harvard courses, an online K-12 curriculum, a three-part course at the Brooklyn Library, and a potential documentary series are to follow, according to a recent profile in The Boston Globe.


It’s no coincidence that Lewis’s work should resonate with so many in 2017. “Sarah found a visual language for larger political trends unfolding within the US generally and more specifically within the African-American community,” noted Harvard professor and literary critic Henry Louis Gates, Jr told the Globe. “The movement is there, but she’s found the visual analog for Black Lives Matter. No one’s done that before.”


Lewis is also a gifted keynote speaker. In her talks, she asks: Can art today bring about the catalytic social change that it has in the past? What is the artist’s role in shifting perceptions, shattering biases, and creating the world we want? When millions of images are shared every day, how can they retain individual significance? To Lewis, art is a lever to social justice and cultural transformation. Gathering in various threads—art history, technical innovation, race, photography, the story of America, and a deeply personal narrative—Lewis takes us to a place of deeper contemplation and understanding. She celebrates individual artists, invokes the collective imagination, and helps us see afresh both what is there, right in front of us, as well as what could be.

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“In the end . . . [“Vision & Justice” is] about the history of photography as a medium and its relationship to the creation of race,” Lewis says. “What the Aperture issue does is it shows the power of photography to offer a corrective to the narratives that have been set up by the history of photojournalism in particular.”


If we were ever in need of such a corrective, it’s now.


To book Sarah Lewis as the keynote speaker of your organization’s next conference or event, contact The Lavin Agency, her exclusive speakers bureau.