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Portraits that celebrate the individuality and identity of Indigenous artists

The Block Museum of Art presents ‘Facing the Camera’ series by photo-based Métis artist Rosalie Favell
rosalie favell
Motivated by an attempt to give her community as much representation as possible, as well as an understanding of Indigenous people’s complicated relationship with photography, Rosalie Favell views each “Facing the Camera” portrait as a collaborative project co-created with the sitter.

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.

> Related video: Rosalie Favell on reprising “Facing the Camera” with The Block Museum of Art

“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.

Chicago artists added to the project

Recognizing that Chicago is home to one of the largest urban Indigenous populations in the U.S., the artist was inspired to add artists of the region to her project. 

Favell and The Block worked with partners from Center for Native Futures, the Chicago American Indian Community Collaborative, and the Center for Native and Indigenous Research at Northwestern to invite 20 new sitters to expand the series. 

During her residency at The Block, Favell met with local artists, had conversations with Northwestern students, and concluded the week with a portrait session at Evanston’s ”Mitchell Museum of the American Indian.

Her new portraits, shown for the first time within the exhibition, will include the following artists: Annabelle Broeffle, Audra Simpson, Cherish Parrish, Chris Pappan, Courtney Biggs, Debra Yepa-Pappan, Ji Hae Yepa-Pappan, June Carpenter, Kelly Church, Kim Vigue, Le'Ana Asher, Lois Taylor Biggs, Lydia Cheshewalla, Mark Jourdan, Michaela Marchi, Monica Rickert-Bolter, Nora Moore Lloyd, Ryan Rice, Sharon Hoogstraten and Vince Romero.

“The Block Museum is honored to collaborate with Rosalie Favell to extend this celebratory project to Chicago,” said Lisa Corrin, The Block’s Ellen Philip Katz Executive Director. “This exhibition represents one step in our ongoing work, as we aspire to be in good relation with partner organizations in the local Indigenous community for the long term.

“We are deeply grateful for all we are learning from our collaborators and for the opportunity to engage Northwestern faculty and students around the Indigenous histories and perspectives that continue to shape our present moment,” Corrin said.

An opening celebration and conversation will take place on Sept. 27. Admission to The Block Museum is always free and open to all. For more information visit The Block website.

Relating photography to identity

Favell is a photo-based artist, born in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Drawing inspiration from her family history and Métis (Cree/English) heritage, she uses a variety of sources, from family albums to popular culture, to present a complex self-portrait of her experiences as a contemporary aboriginal woman. Favell’s art often explores the relation of photography to issues of identity.  

Over the course of her career, her work has appeared in exhibitions in Canada; the U.S.; Edinburgh, Scotland; Paris; Taipei, Taiwan; and Melbourne, Australia. Numerous institutions have acquired her artwork including the National Gallery of Canada, the Canadian Museum of Contemporary Photography, the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian and Global Affairs Canada. Among Favell’s awards and honors are the Ontario Arts Foundation’s Paul DeHuek/Norman Walford Career Achievement Award and Chalmers Fellowship; The Canada Council for the Arts’ Victor Martyn Lynch-Staunten Award and Ottawa’s Karsh Award. 

Favelle earned a bachelor’s degree from Ryerson Polytechnic Institute in Toronto, Ontario; an MFA from the University of New Mexico; and Honorary Doctoral Degree from OCAD University, Toronto, Ontario (2022).

The exhibition is curated by Corinne Granof, academic curator at The Block Museum, and Felipe Gutierrez, a Block Museum 2022-23 interdisciplinary graduate fellow.

Major support for the exhibition is provided by the National Endowment for the Arts, with additional support from the David C. and Sarajean Ruttenberg Arts Foundation, the Alumnae of Northwestern University and the Illinois Arts Council Agency.

Favell’s “Facing the Camera” residency and exhibition are part of The Block’s ongoing work to support the strategic initiatives of Indigenous-led efforts at Northwestern.

Lindsay Bosch is associate director of communications, marketing and digital strategy at The Block.

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