Shawn Michelle Smith
My work is about photography; what it is, what it means, what it does. I explore the history and theory of photography in a number of different ways, as an artist, a writer, and an educator. All of my projects begin with looking closely at photographic images. In my art practice, I work primarily with “found” photographs, both personal and historical, and I am especially interested in that most common of photographic forms, the family snapshot. I enlarge and manipulate details, calling attention to the wealth of visual information photographs record, and then recombine those details in new combinations that highlight the malleable nature of photographic meaning.

As a scholar I also necessarily work with “found” photographs, and my critical practice also begins with close looking. I am interested in exploring how photographs are invested with meaning, in how they come to have specific cultural significance in different contexts. As in my creative work, I am generally drawn to common photographic forms such as the portrait, the snapshot, and the mass media image. I seek to understand how people use photographs to make both personal and political statements.

This web page features primarily my photographic artwork. For more information about my scholarly books, articles, and lectures on photography, please see the book folders provided here, the links page, and my CV.