When Rosalie Favell, a photo-based Métis artist from Canada, picked up her camera to document fellow Indigenous artists at a residency in 2008, she did not expect to begin a major international project.
But by 2018, her “Facing the Camera” series had grown to include more than 500 portraits of Indigenous artists and arts professionals taken across Canada, the United States and Australia.
The Block Museum of Art at Northwestern University will present the largest and most comprehensive showing of the series in the U.S. from Sept. 20 to Dec. 3.
“Rosalie Favell: Indigenous Artists Facing the Camera” will include more than 115 photos from the series, as well as a suite of new portraits of Chicago-area artists and arts professionals taken during Favell’s Block Museum residency during the spring of 2023.
“Favell’s work is a living visual history and a critical intervention in expanding the visibility of contemporary Indigenous artists and arts professionals,” said exhibition curator Corinne Granof. “These portraits speak loudly of the broad diversity of Indigenous people engaged in the arts and cultural community.”
Portrait as collaboration
Motivated by an attempt to give her community as much representation as possible, as well as an understanding of Indigenous peoples' complicated relationship with photography, Favell views each “Facing the Camera” portrait as a collaborative project co-created with the sitter.
“Just one at a time, I just kept taking pictures, I wanted to meet artists, and have that record for posterity,” Favell said. “People come as they are. They can wear what they want, they stand in whatever position they want. I use the portrait to acknowledge the agency of the individual in bringing together their own cultural and personal sense of self.”
Favell often films her sessions, celebrating the momentary connection and interaction she has with her sitters as they face the camera. A selection of these films will be displayed within the exhibition.
“In front of the camera, people have an idea of who they are and how they want to be present and represented in the world. I want them to be uplifted,” Favell said.