“White America likes to think about how much progress we've made, but I find myself thinking more about the ways things have remained the same,” says photographer Miranda Barnes, “I have two teenage brothers and I often worry that they will become victims of a system that criminalises black youth.”
After a lengthy scroll down her Tumblr feed and a rising sense of activism against injustice initiated by campaigns such as Black Lives Matter inspired Barnes to take queues from the wealth of young women using social media to showcase their artistic skill and pick up a camera herself, the Brooklyn native and first generation “West Indian American millennial” decided to turn her cute hobby of photography into a political tool. Her latest series Land of the Free sees the photographer focussing her lens on postcolonial America and a quest for self-identity.
“As a first generation biracial WOC, 2014-2015 was all about finding myself and the relationship I have with a country that wasn't built for me. I thought it would be interesting to document the America I see, through a POC's eyes. It's different than it was 60 years ago, but it's still hostile and discriminatory.”
After initially founding two blogs promoting WOC artists (named Brown Girl Collective and Real Girls Doing Real Things) with the aim of “showcasing young women I knew in the field that were making a name for themselves,” Barnes put the online ventures on hold after realising her own vision and desired direction as an artist. But despite the rising acknowledgement of the exclusivity of the art world and a perceived determination by art institutions to tackle the lack of opportunities for marginalised communities, she believes WOC still have a harder time than their white counterparts when it comes to inclusion in collectives or at gallery spaces. But how do we tackle the arguably pale, stale and male dominated art world?
“If you don't know any, research or find WOC artists in your area. Because we are here and doing things. But also support, especially financially, if you can. Through my work, I hope that I can inspire at risk POC youth who think that they can't get into art to produce work and have a creative outlet that sometimes isn't available in poorer neighbourhoods. Art simply is an amazing thing, but when you can put social awareness behind it and shed light on an injustice, it becomes a tool that is unlike any other,” she says.