Classroom Activities and Discussion Questions
Beth Buggenhagen’s “If You Were in My Sneakers: Migration Stories in the Studio Photography of Dakar based Omar Victor Diop” analyzes Omar Victor Diop’s body of work, “Project Diaspora: Self Portraits 2014.” This teaching supplement aims to provide discussion questions and activities for students and instructors to engage with portrait photography in an African postcolonial and global context. Students will test their assumptions about the ability of photographic images to re-inscribe historical representations and construct narratives that subvert and critique a wide range of contemporary issues, including racism, and migration. How do we capture images of contemporary and historical accounts of migration while at the same time respecting the dignity of migrants?
- Over these past few years, you have probably been struck by iconic photographic images that went viral in the social media outlets about migration and refugee issues. What are the dominant images of migration and migrants and refugees? How do you react to such images? Do they alter your understanding of migrant and refugee issues?
- How does Diop want to portray human migration? Does he succeed?
- In “Project Diaspora: Self Portraits 2014,” Diop appears in each of these images. Are these selfies? What distinguishes a selfie from a self portrait, if anything?
Reading & Watching Comprehension:
- How does the author interpret the abolitionist bust in Girodet’s painting of Belley in relation to the soccer ball prop featured in Diop’s photographic re-enactment of the same painting?
- Based on the article and the YouTube videos below, write one paragraph about how Diop’s background has shaped his artistic choices.
Compare and contrast:
- Choose 2 portraits of different authors in the article. Look at them and organize your thoughts about their similarities and differences in a balanced paragraph of six sentences.
- Considering the article, orally report what you think the photographers intended to narrate through those images, and share your opinion if you agree or disagree.
Observe and read:
- How do European colonial photographic props differ from Omar Victor Diop’s contemporary props?
Reflection: Words and Images:
- Creating a Portrait
- Form a pair group to create a portrait of a stigmatized or controversial sport, Hollywood star, or political figure.
- What props would you associate her or his image with, if you were to condemn or change that stigmatization in a photographic enactment?
- What props did you often use in your own self-portrait photography? Why? What meaning do these props hold for you?
- Do you think photography is an effective tool for re-writing biased historical accounts to positively impact current migration, racial or gender problems in the world? Argue to support your point of view.
Omar Diop’s background
- African Arts, Special Issue on African Photography: http://www.mitpressjournals.org/toc/afar/48/3
- Omar Victor Diop: https://www.omarviktor.com/
- Feature documentary that follows five internationally acclaimed photographers commissioned by the Annenberg foundation including Omar Victor Diop as they capture the lives of displaced people on five continents: https://www.annenbergphotospace.org/refugee-film