Bayete Ross Smith speaks TED Resident's Salon, June 6, 2017, New York, NY. Photo: Ryan Lash / TED
By combining elements of photojournalism, social documentary, editorial portraiture, and Hip Hop culture, I examine the performative and quotidian dimensions of human identity, interactions, and beauty. I utilize my experience in these areas to function as both a multi-media artist and a visual anthropologist. I employ the language of these disciplines to speak directly to common, everyday issues and themes in society.
Identity forms the basis of all human interactions and social systems. I use it as a way to study and deconstruct, ideas of beauty, value, and reciprocity that permeate our history and social systems. A key element in this exploration is looking at how identity is performed by the individual and then perceived by others. I scrutinize preconceived notions and stereotypes, and when if ever, they are valid. This analysis extends to examining who controls the images and media that define people and cultures globally, in a time that is defined by ease of access to information and user generated and disseminated media. Social and community engagement is therein a crucial element of my work. Both artistic and anthropological research further informs my creative process.
My work is interdisciplinary, using the medium best suited for each idea. I create photographs, videos, sculptures, performances, and multi-media works, all of which intend to highlight our personal investment in the identities we create for ourselves and others. I am invested in how those identities impact our understanding and engagement, in humanity’s past, present and future.