Wednesday, 25 October 2017

2017 REX NETTLEFORD CONFERENCE: Two talented artists use visual media to illustrate and enhance their ‘investigative’ work

RORY Doyle, who hails from Cleveland, Ohio, didn’t know what to expect when he turned to his passion for photography to start documenting the lives of immigrants in the Mississippi Delta, one of the most impoverished areas in the United States. It’s where you’ll find Mexicans, other Hispanics and Latinos, Blacks and other minority groups living in ‘hidden communities’, away from the busy streets, says Doyle, who gave the power-point presentation, “Photojournalism and the Current Immigration Atmosphere in the Mississippi Delta.”

“Our economy is weak and it became worse when farming became industrialized. It’s not exactly thought of as the land of opportunity compared to the rest of America. So why did these people choose to live here?” he wanted to know. Hence his artistic quest. And given the current political climate and Trump’s hard-line stance on immigration, what does the future hold for these close-knit folks who are doing odd jobs and running their own little businesses to survive?

Doyle’s vivid and arresting photography (many of the images capturing people in the throes of cultural practices) spark interest about a section of the US population that is, more or less, living on the edge, people determined to hold on to their customs and traditions, in spite of the less-than-favourable circumstances. “People generally say we don’t have these kinds of people in Cleveland. They don’t know that these kinds of people are their neighbours,” says Doyle, who has been invited to observe some of their events and document his observations. 

He even ended up helping a family in need by publicizing their plight on social media, getting people to assist in cash and kind. Up next, Doyle (who is responsible for the marketing imagery at Delta State University) wants to embark on deeper exploration in these communities – populated by people “in a state of limbo” – by zoning in on some more personal stories.

For glimpses of Rory Doyle’s captivating work (and evidence of his great eye as a photographer) visit

DENIEVE Manning doesn’t just watch music videos; she looks closer. According to the Edna Manley College-based performance artist and model, a well-crafted clip – an audio-visual work of art in motion – should not only entertain but also provoke thought and spark dialogue. “For me,” she says, “music videos [offer] an emotional touchpoint for human beings.” Doing her presentation “How I Hack Music Videos for Contemporary Art,” Manning drew on the spellbinding imagery in Beyoncé’s Lemonade opus (“What was interesting was how she presented her ideas using themes like spirituality”); the creative genius of rappers Kendrick Lamar and Jay-Z, alongside Major Lazer and Chronixx, to speak to the visual currency and narrative power that all great music videos possess. “Watching music videos should allow us to be more self-interrogative. But they also highlight how we use new and existing media to tell stories and move the narrative forward,” Manning argues. “How we use new media and new platforms, like Tidal, is something to explore. Just because something is done one way traditionally, that doesn’t mean it can’t be done another way.”

> More interesting highlights from the conference

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