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Faculty Feature: Stacy Mehrfar

Photographing photographs people, places, protests

Stacy Arezou Mehrfar photographs people, places and things that are on the periphery of our view of society and culture. In subjects ranging from suburban neighborhoods in the United States to working class communities in Australia, her interests have been trained on the individual and social identities that make up this outsider status. Her recent body of work has been focused on a more visible topic—but one that is no less misunderstood—protest.

“When we picture protest, we envision a mass. We see hordes of people storming, chanting, arms raised, fists pumped in unison,” Mehrfar says. In her project A Collective Performance, she was interested in a different view of protest. “I became profoundly interested in the role of the individual within this collective experience. I began looking at how these individuals’ actions and their collective performances relate to broader societal concerns.”

In photographing this subject, Mehrfar hoped to capture something specific about the people who are otherwise seen as anonymous within these large groups. “It was important that the portraits had a certain sense of agency, that they somehow transcended the protest experience to offer a more layered response.” This interest guided her choice of images, how they were composed and what they showed. “If you notice, there are little or no images of protest signs, or protest paraphernalia. This was intentional. I was focused on constructs of identity, social cohesion and the formation of a temporal community.”

A Collective Performance consists of single images, as well as a five-channel stop-motion video piece taken from Mehrfar’s photography of over 40 protest events. Part of the project will be on view as a part of SVACE’s annual ContinuEd Art & Activism event on September 4, 2019. In anticipation of the event, we asked Mehrfar her thoughts on the relation between art and activism. “Art has the power to shift boundaries, build relationships and create new paradigms,” she says. “With this thought, perhaps it could be said that art and activism have a similar symbiotic relationship as the individual and the collective.”

A version of this feature appeared in our Fall 2019 issue of SVA ContinuEd, available now by visiting or calling our office. See our Photography courses here. Follow our updates and stories on our Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram pages!

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