Paper Machine Artist in Residence: Chandra McCormick

This fall, Paper Machine hosts artist-in-residence Chandra McCormick. Chandra’s residency will focus on her archival work of the Lower 9th Ward Indigenous community, creating a publication of new and old work that speaks to the histories, landscapes, spirit, facts, and communal life she has documented and engaged with over the past thirty years. 

Bio: Chandra McCormick (b.1957, New Orleans) is an artist living and working in New Orleans who uses photography to provide visual testimony to the lived experiences of African American life in Louisiana. 

Whether chronicling religious ceremonies, cultural traditions, and visual histories of the Lower 9th Ward or tracing the legacies of slavery through sugarcane laborers on plantations, sweet potato field harvesters, or life at Angola, Louisiana State Penitentiary, her images bear witness to the social realities of Black life—historicizing and archiving the unique traditions and deep-rooted attributes of Louisiana culture. Since the early 1980s, McCormick has engaged photography as a site of social activism—documenting, illuminating, and conveying the struggles and celebrations of the Black experience. 

Her work has been featured nationally and internationally, alongside her husband’s Keith Calhoun, in numerous exhibitions, publications, and events, including la Biennale di Venezia 56th International Art Exhibition in PhotographyNational Geographic Storytellers Summit 2020We No Longer Consider Them DamagedCenter for Documentary StudiesArt MattersOgden Museum of Southern ArtBrooklyn Rail, the Harvard Art MuseumPhotoNola Keynote PresentationIlluminating the DarknessSouthboundHyperallergic, and the  Contemporary Arts Center New Orleans.

From the artist: 
Seeing the beauty in the people of my world, I’m fascinated by the process of photography and learning to paint with light. My work brings forward the experiences that breathe truth into the photo essays I share with the general public and audiences around the world. I’m grateful and humbled to have had opportunities to share the profoundness of people and landscapes I have photographed. My connection goes beyond the frame of ‘looking at’ the people I photograph as subjects. I feel we are one. It’s much more than relatable to me—it often is me. I sometimes experience a feeling of being both in front of and behind the camera, and I want the viewers of my photographs to have the same intense experience of empathy. I’ve marched on the same streets, danced to the same drums, and waded in the same floodwaters as some of the people I’ve documented on this journey. I hope that when one views my images, they experience the same lack of distance and feel the heat of the sun, the sound of the songs, and inner voices wanting to be heard.