The Grain of the Amateur

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1 Scopus citations


While the images traditionally associated with the amateur visual archive of the black experience were primarily everyday photographs taken by black communities in diaspora, more recently, it is the moving image, rather than still photography, to which these communities turn to capture the vicissitudes of black life. Their repository is no longer handmade albums or scrapbooks; it is Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and numerous other self-curated online collections. Focusing on the work of cinematographer Arthur Jafa, this article explores the ways black amateur digital archives are used by contemporary black artists like Jafa to create an emergent new black gaze that renders the borders between fine art and popular culture porous and unstable. It is a gaze that resuscitates and revalues the amateur visual archive of black life in radical ways and with radical possibilities for imagining a different kind of black futurity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)37-47
Number of pages11
JournalThird Text
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Cultural Studies
  • Visual Arts and Performing Arts


  • Arthur Jafa
  • Beyoncé
  • Jay-Z
  • Okwui Okpakwasili
  • Tina Campt
  • amateurism
  • black archives
  • black cinema
  • black gaze
  • futurity
  • still-moving-images
  • visual frequency


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