We stopped into The Annenberg Space for Photography last weekend to see portraits by Timothy Greenfield-Sanders, a photographer whose style is similar to Richard Avedon – his subjects face the camera with a direct gaze, and are positioned against simple backgrounds. The scope and talent of his work in the present day is on the level of Annie Leibovitz, and in fact he is on the masthead for Vanity Fair. Greenfield-Sanders’s portraits are widely collected by museums, he went to AFI Film school and has produced as many films over the course of his career.
At some point, while photographing many of the world’s most interesting and impressive people, Greenfield-Sanders determined that he should interview his subjects during the sittings. The result is a series of films, dating back to 2008 and featured on HBO, that group his subjects into categories — The Black List, The Latino List, The Woman List, the Out List, The Boomer List and recently, The Trans List.
IDENTITY: Timothy Greenfield-Sanders The List Portraits includes the finest portraits from these categories, some dating back to 2008. The show, which is open through February 2017, has an ambitious mission – it demonstrates the diversity of our most courages citizens and thus teaches lessons of diversity. The viewer is confronted with the direct gaze of powerful people, and the show serves as a reminder of the collective power and wisdom of our diverse populous. Most of the photographs are of people we know, celebrities or leaders of their field who were chosen because of their contribution to the struggle of their particular race or sex. The singularity of each story is powerful, and worth witnessing. The progress we have made as a country in thanks to these individuals is incredible and worth sharing with your family.
Raising kids who are sensitive to differences is a prerequisite for success in these times, so how can parents help their kids grow up without implicit bias? A trip to see IDENTITY can engender conversations about diversity and courage with middle-schoolers and high-schoolers. Walk a mile in my shoes is the essential wisdom here. By exposing kids to the stories of others, you open them up to an awareness of difference that will help your child grow up with a more sensitive outlook and balanced set of ideas about people and the world.
Here is a list of resources to help expand the topic in your household:
A solid article from Slate about leading by example and teaching kids tolerance that points out how early children start to sort out ideas about race and how you can get ahead of cultural bias.
Tools for Teaching and Learning about Diversity from Common Sense Education
Books That Promote Tolerance and Diversity from Common Sense Media
The galleries can be explored in less than 30 minutes, and the film on a loop in the central gallery space will draw kids in. As always, the galleries are free to visit and only require 30-45 minutes to visit.
A documentary film about the topic plays on a loop in the central gallery, which adds depth to the portraits and fills in some of the blanks in the story. Listening to Sonia Sottomayor talk about the project she grew up in and Richard Parsons talk about the biases he faced coming up as a black man in the corporate world, or a teenager talk about convincing their dad that she was doing the right thing by transitioning to a girl – these are powerful, simple stories that make an impact on the viewer.
Greenfield-Sanders shows were produced by HBO but are not available for viewing presently. Books from each series are available at the Annenberg’s gift shop, which is probably the best way to dig deeper into this content. However, the latest film, The Trans List, will debut on December 5 2016 on HBO.
The Annenberg Space for Photography: 2000 Avenue of the Stars Los Angeles, CA 90067
Wed – Sun: 11am – 6pm / Mon – Tue: Closed / Show open through February 26, 2017