Mike-Safe and Suspect
16" x 20"
Artist Statement: For the past few years, I have been working on a group of computer altered photographs that start with
a formal, studio portrait as a base for each piece. The models are used as mannequins that I digitally
embellish. I use this construct to portray aspects of our culture and not those of the individual subject.
Racial profiling is the subject of my "Safe/Suspect" series. The terrorist attacks of 9/11/01 heightened
our awareness of ethnicity. Racists felt vindicated as their suspicions appeared to become reality. People
were being detained and questioned for the color of their skin, an alignment of facial features, and a type
of head wear. Our "melting pot" suddenly seemed to have a bad element that needed to be extracted.
Conveniently, that element looked different enough that anyone could pick it out.
Digital technology allows me to experiment with my own reactions to appearance. I would not consider
myself a racist, but I know I feel differently about the "Safe" on the left and the "Suspect" on the right. A
change of skin tone and facial structure can lead to assumptions about place of birth, life history,
motivations, and personality. The concept of photography as a depiction of reality is so strong, that
computer altered images can be very confusing. We look from one image to another to try to decipher the
mystery of what has been digitally altered. Through this process, our feeling about ethnic appearances
may be revealed to ourselves, as we become aware of how little actually comprises a racial difference.