“Anthropologists… function in an uncertain relationship with the peoples they study and the wider public. In the field they are in an ambivalent power relationship, seeking access to information over which their subjects have control yet sometimes capitalizing on unequal social or political status to gain that access. At home anthropologists are in sole control of the interpretive process and the product presented to the public. Finally, when that material enters the public domain, anthropologist and subject have very little control over the wider uses and interpretations of the original information.”
– Melissa Banta and Curtis M. Hinsley, From Site to Sight: Anthropology, Photography, and the Power of Imagery
Camera Obscura, a “dark room,” was an instrument used to capture and translate an image, albeit inverted, onto a new surface. Once a drawing aid for 17th century European artists, this precursor to photography translated the world of volume, texture, and space into highlights and shadows on a plane. What was (and sometimes is still) perceived to be a more authentic rendering of space than what our eyes and hands can achieve, photography nevertheless embodies a medium of interpretation. Among the many users of photography, early anthropologists embraced the medium as a means to observe, record, and collect cultural information in the field. I am fascinated with the relationship between anthropologists and their subjects throughout time. Most notably the evolution of where the anthropologist placed him or herself in the ethnographic account. This has ranged from striving for complete objective account to acknowledging the presence of the ethnographer among the people he or she is studying.
Camera Perspicuous, an “easily understood” or “transparent” room, ironically contemplates the human experience of uprooting and resettling in a foreign place. Recalling the “Villages Noirs” of early 20th century Europe or the ethnic displays of the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair (where Native Americans, Filipinos, Xhosa, and other deemed exotic peoples were hired to enact “rituals” for tourist attraction), this is a room for viewing a specimen from an outside perspective. The prism functions as a “container” but its form and materials (the angled wall jutting into the space, one wall opaque fabric, etc.) ultimately obstruct the outsider’s understanding of its contents.
Camera Perspicuous is also a portal through which observations of exoticism and difference are translated into personal narrations of displacement, alienation, and adjustment. The words of notable  historical and contemporary ethnographers discussing “otherness” are imprinted onto one wall. Beyond this screen on hears excerpts from interviews I conducted with immigrants who explore the nuances of being strange, external, and outside simple categorization.
The viewer’s visual, auditory, and tactile access to the events in the chamber erode and reemerge over the course of the exhibition. Sometimes an actor is present, performing a “ritual,” translating, or mending. Artifacts of these activities are left in his or her absence. Ultimately the voices reconstruct a sense of emergent identity. Camera Perspicuous meditates on the notion of the authenticity of the human story as “what happened” is ultimately veiled by context, consequences of actions, and especially the perception of others.
All Performances at Gallery One, Student Center Washtenaw Community College E. Huron River Drive, Ypsilanti, MI 48197 *map and directions can be found here.
 Bronislaw Malinowski, Franz Boas, Margaret Mead, Zora Neal-Herston, Renato Rosaldo, and Paul Stoller.  Tal Rappaport, Lai Lai Chu, Aprilianto Sundandayo, Fabrice Payet, Parisa Ghaderi, and Reem Gibriel