Emily Holmes

Emily Holmes

Emily Holmes is a San Francisco-based writer whose work focuses on the racialized and gendered body’s mediation through photographic technologies. She holds a BA in Visual Art from The Evergreen State College and a MA in Visual and Critical Studies from California College of the Arts. Academic projects prior to CCA included a study of the emergence of feminist art history as a discipline, and theorizing about the gendered politics of “discovering” photographer Margaret Watkins. As a photographer herself, Emily’s art explores excessively feminine fabrics by using alternative darkroom techniques, such as the photogram.

She has worked in non-profit development for Meridian Gallery, SFMOMA, and the Asian Art Museum. Emily is currently a Production Coordinator for the Bay Area online publication Art Practical.




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About Emily Holmes's Thesis Project

Emily Holmes

On Values: Elucidating Photography’s Invisible Norm

Can a camera be racist? Analog color film has historically held an institutional bias for white skin at the expense of darker skin colors in instruction manuals and photochemistry. Contemporary artists Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin explored this phenomenon in their photography series, To Photograph the Details of a Dark Horse in Low Light (2012-3) and The Polaroid Revolutionary Workers Movement (2013). Through their reproduction of photochemical reference material called “Shirley cards” and their obtainment of a camera from the 1970s that had a racialized flash boost, used in South Africa to create passbooks, the artists suggest that race in analog history needs critical attention.

Although digital technologies today produce more nuanced representations of black skin, a racialized norm now impacts face detection in point-and-shoot digital cameras. “Racist camera” memes are viral images posted on comedic websites that document instances in which non-white subjects are mis-detected by cameras because of skin color or eye shape. The images produce significant and uncomfortable meaning because a technology that purports to detect all faces has marked certain bodies in a way that mirrors existent relations of racial discrimination. While photography’s role in constructing racial differences along socially constructed hierarchies have been elaborated upon in recent years of scholarship, what is often left unexamined is how ideologies shape the constraints and capabilities of the photographic apparatus itself.

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