FIRST PLACE: Marissa Stewart
N.Y. Photo Curator: Global Photography Awards- 'Where Photography & Philanthropy Meet' FIRST PLACE: Marissa Stewart

Review by curator shauna Caldwell:
"I can feel the time that you have spent moving through this work, and it does truly feel like an emerging archive– of your story, your family’s story, and how you want to weave yourself into that, as well as how you wish to share it with others. There’s a spiraling movement through that palpable time, with this past that you’ve “bloomed” into the present. In this series, you have activated the future of these stories to be held and cared for. I love that you have very carefully omitted information in these images–  that kind of agency is really important to acknowledge in the spaces between familial/communal archiving and their re-presentation to the public eye. I understand, as I grow closer to learning about you and your family through these images, that there are stories here that are not meant for me–  and there is so much beauty in that. Your work is necessary.

While there is so much vibrancy in the rest of the series, the colors in this piece are muted which speaks to the quiet part of me that is deeply curious and ever-dreaming. I love how the tape on the wall echoes the pieces missing from the photograph on the far right and the adhesive tape on the hand of your beloved in the center– a contemporary and poetic altarpiece of sorts. This piece requires a delicate and close looking which illuminates your subjects, who you say, “have their history embedded in their appearance and their stories written in the wrinkles of their skin.” Through these tender, beautiful, and– at moments– heartbreaking images, there’s an underlying roar of your spirit as you “Navigat[e] through identity and understanding the process to keep a family history intact when the systems it exists within are designed to keep it apart.” This radical act against that domination is a welcome and inspiring approach. 

Thank you for your artistry,

*quotes from

Caldwell asks Stewart, "What do you hope viewers will gain through experiencing your work?"

Stewart says, "When viewers take the moment to experience my work, I hope they feel a sense of discovery, warmth, strength, and longing to be heard. With my work I aim to lift the experience of the individuals who have trusted me with their identity, their image, which in turn is also their legacy and place in this world. The viewers who chose to engage with my work I hope will take away not with necessarily a understanding of my family archive, but acknowledgement of movement, time, struggle and triumph of collecting and re-piecing fragmented familial history."
Caldwell asks, "Your work feels like documentation of a ritual– in remembering, honoring, and grounding your matrilineal story in histories past and present– do you see your artistic practice as ritualistic? If so, in what ways does this work hold you and vice versa? If not, how do you approach your creative practice through this work?"

Stewart says, "The work is very much ritualistic, indexical, and documental all wrapped together, as much of my work is. Specifically, when working in the archive it is much like meeting my family for the first time as a stranger and experiencing these lived lives with fresh ideas. The work allows for a space of exploration and creatively within the images of Black folks and Black families. Often that kind of space is not granted as images of Black people can have specific ideals and themes attached to them."

Caldwell says, "One image that holds me is the polaroid with the tears, cracks in the emulsion and the remnants of tape. The act of taping together a damaged photograph on the surface level can be seen as a simple act. But it’s much more complex than that, the care into a singular, material item that contains the image of a loved one, the act of trying to keep the image intact and for what reason can only truly be known to the person who carefully placed the tape. My approach to my work has always been done in steps, carefully invested in each one, the process thoughtful and pointed."
Caldwell asks, "What are you working on lately? How do you see this project growing and continuing to move into the future?"

Stewart says, "Currently I am working on a project that focuses on my experiences as a Type 1 Diabetic within a material, installation-based format paired with a photographic counterpart. Rarely do I focus the camera on myself, or my personal experience and I believe in order to continue the project(s) I’ve been working on it is time to include myself in the familial timeline that I have been crafting and preserving.
For this project I envision it taking new forms and branching into more visual forms that include installation, 3D processes, audio, and video. I would like the work to grow into an expansive experiential project that can make an attempt to cover, even if only a small portion, the richness, love and care that my archives hold."

More about Stewart:

Marissa Nicole Stewart is photographic based artist residing in the Midwest. She was born in Toledo, OH and is 30 years of age. Her practice is based on ideas involving Black families, matriarchal lineage, race, oral history, aging and health. The root of these ideas take shape through traditional and experimental storytelling practices. Navigating through identity and understanding the process to keep a family history intact when the systems it exists within are designed to keep it apart.

She received her BFA from Bowling Green State University, her MFA from Ohio University and most recently was awarded a Greater Columbus Art Council Grant for Individual Artist.

Marissa’s work has been shown in mosaicARTs Gallery in Fairfax, VA, Ohio University Art Gallery, Southern Ohio Museum, Hopkins Hall Gallery at The Ohio State University, The Neon Heater in Findlay, OH, Praxis Gallery in Minneapolis, Minnesota and will be a part of a show at East Window Gallery in Boulder, CO in November.