Deana Lawson’s work negotiates knowledge of selfhood through a corporeal dimension. Her photographs speak to the ways that sexuality, violence, family, and social status may be written, sometimes literally, on the body. Lawson utilizes a wide spectrum of photographic languages: staged imagery, loose documentary, appropriated pictures given to her by her subjects, or images she discovers in the media. These different modes of photographic production, whether staged or found, feed into the ongoing narratives that Lawson engages. As musician and critic Greg Tate wrote recently, “What you see in [Lawson’s] work is photographer as cultural anthropologist but also as cultural vivisectionist and forensic curator. Her practice subtly contests the suppression of Black visual epistemologies — as much through absence as presence, withheld information as much cultural saturation bombing. Drawing the spectators eye to how people command space within the frame, how they proclaim ownership of selfhood before the camera is a recurring motif. Her work seems always about the desire to represent social intimacies that defy stereotype and pathology while subtly acknowledging the vitality of lives abandoned by the dominant social order.”
Deana Lawson’s work was included in the 2017 Whitney Biennial, New Photography 2011 at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, and she had a solo exhibition at The Art Institute of Chicago in 2015. She has participated in group exhibitions at The Studio Museum, Harlem; MoMA P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center; Artists Space, New York; and the Spelman College Museum of Fine Art, Atlanta. Gallery shows include Rhona Hoffman Gallery, Chicago; Yancey Richardson Gallery, New York; Helene Bailly Gallery, Paris; and Light Work Gallery, Syracuse, New York. Her work has been published in The New Yorker, TIME Magazine, BOMB, The Collector's Guide to New Art Photography, Photo District News, Time Out New York, Contact Sheet #154, and PQ Journal for Contemporary Photography. Lawson is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, the John Gutmann Photography Fellowship, a Rema Hort Mann Foundation Grant, an Aaron Siskind Fellowship Grant, and a New York Foundation for the Arts Grant. Deana has participated in the Workspace residency at the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, the Light Work residency in Syracuse, and the Visual Studies Workshop residency in Rochester, New York.
Deana began teaching at Princeton in 2012. She has taught at California College of Arts, San Francisco; the International Center for Photography, New York; and the Rhode Island School of Design , Providence. She earned a B.F.A. from Penn State University and an M.F.A. from the Rhode Island School of Design. Deana was born in Rochester, New York, and currently lives and works in the heart of the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood in Brooklyn.