I categorize my piece In(di)visible (2016) as a digital composite although there are no actual photographic elements. The man comes the closest as I hand drew a black Appalachian coal miner first photographed by Ben Shahn* in 1935. The black coal miners were sometimes referred to as Affalachians.** In my image the pencil marks of the portrait disappear and even the heavy texturing of the miner dressed in his dapper Sunday outfit fades and then melds with the last visible white bar of the flag effectively making the miner, and his efforts in building the United States, invisible. He melts into a larger, homogeneous conception. But his presence also divides the blue field and the red and white bars of the American flag just as the treatment of black people has often divided the larger white majority (and the ideologies of political parties) in the United States. Both components of the flag were created digitally, but separately, for other projects and combined for the express purpose of being split.
*Ben Shahn’s photographs are pretty easy to find online although actual biographies of him are harder to come by but the ADC (Art Director Club) has a very in depth Ben Shahn biography page.
**For a good, short read about Affalachians, along with more photography from Shahn, see the blog of John Edwin Mason by clicking here.