Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts


Visual Arts


D.Sarah bassnett


This thesis examines the “Visual Griots” project, a youth outreach initiative that produced photographs which were exhibited in Mali and the United States and were surrounded by polemics of “photographic truth” and “power.” Recognizing this Contextualization as a common strategy for many youth photography exhibitions, this thesis examines the “Visual Griots” case study to offer a critical investigation of the relationships between “youth photography” and concepts of “authenticity” and “power.” The first chapter examines the historiography of the “Visual Griots” project to demonstrate that the photographs participated in traditions of using photography and youth culture in nation-building and cultural diplomacy agendas. This chapter introduces how the photographs were aligned with concepts of “authenticity” through political discourse. The second chapter investigates the relationship between “youth photography” and “authenticity” by considering the aesthetic, conceptual, and methodological qualities of the “Visual Griots” photographs which support a discourse of “photographic truth.” The third chapter employs constructionist theories and visual analyses of some of the photographs to demonstrate that while photographs taken by children might seem to simply convey optimistic and “authentic” views of everyday life, such photographs are complex visual documents, which act as sites of cultural negotiation. This research pays critical attention to a genre of photography that has little dedicated scholarship with the hopes of offering practical and theoretical insight regarding the issues and implications of exhibiting youth photographs.



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