American photographer Nona Faustine's series, My Country, serves as a poignant and evocative exploration of the historical and contemporary issues surrounding racial inequalities in the United States. The artist's work, comprising a series of striking photographs of famous American landmarks, delves into the complex and deeply rooted challenges that have shaped the nation's historical racial narrative. My Country highlights societal and racial disparities in America's history in efforts to include Black American stories into the larger narrative, reflecting the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal of Reduced Inequalities.

Liberty or Death, Sons of Africa by Nona Faustine. Image courtesy of Two Palms.

My Country is a series of manipulated photographs featuring national monuments and renowned landmarks in the United States. In these images, specific portions of the monuments are intentionally obscured by a band that mimics a technical error in the photograph.

The pieces in My Country are a call to action, urging Americans to confront the uncomfortable truths woven into the fabric of their widely celebrated history. In an interview with Elle magazine, the artist states that the project stemmed from her observation of people’s lack of understanding of Black American history, which was mostly absent from visual narratives since it was not captured in photographs.

My Country serves as both an art project and a historical reckoning, challenging viewers to engage with the uncomfortable truths that have shaped the nation's trajectory.

Likewise, in her piece Fragment of Evidence, the Statue of Liberty is obscured by a window bar on the Staten Island Ferry, which she intentionally included in the photograph.

In Praise of Famous Men No More by Nona Faustine. Image courtesy of Two Palms.

Meanwhile in  In Praise of Famous Men No More, Faustine used an in-camera effect to create a thick red line slashing across the equestrian statue of Teddy Roosevelt located outside the Museum of Natural History in New York.

Through My Country, the artist hopes to draw attention to a range of societal challenges, from "horrific killings" to the "heroin epidemic in suburbia." Faustine positions these issues as symptomatic of a deeper malaise, a "sickness" that has permeated the American landscape for centuries and can only heal if their histories are acknowledged. 

Land of Freedoms Heaven by Nona Faustine. Image courtesy of Two Palms.

Overall, Faustine observes a broader societal ignorance in the United States when it comes to the lasting impact that historical injustices have on marginalized communities.

Faustine uses the band that obstructs the viewer's perspective of historical monuments as a visual metaphor. It vividly illustrates how certain aspects of the history symbolized by these monuments have been deliberately hidden. This serves as a visual portrayal of America's selective approach to presenting its history.

Fragment of Evidence by Nona Faustine. Image courtesy of Art Basel.

The series of photographs continues an attitude that Faustine started in her previous series of photographs known as White Shoes. In this series, the artist stood naked in front of places in New York City where Black slaves were purchased and sold in the seventeenth century. Here, Faustine becomes a living embodiment of the historical struggles and triumphs of Black Americans. 

White Shoes also featured historical and iconic locations, something that like in My Country, creates a powerful juxtaposition between the past and the present. Both series are compelling tools of visual storytelling that communicate the enduring nature of inequality, as well as the resilience of those who have historically faced oppression.

Part of the White Shoes series by Nona Faustine. Image courtesy of the British Journal of Photography.

Faustine calls for "honest conversation" through her work, acknowledging the importance of open dialogue on the subject. She advocates for a collective reckoning with the uncomfortable truths embedded in the nation's history. 

The information embedded in Faustine's photographs is presented as a stark reality, as she emphasizes that these histories are readily available in books and libraries. This intentional referencing of hidden documented history underscores the urgency of acknowledging historical injustices as a crucial step toward reducing inequalities.

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