American, b. 1962
Unknown African American Male, Surry, Texas, 2016
Archival Inkjet Print
12 x 12" Image on 16.5 x 16.5" Paper
Edition of 30
Diana Matar investigates topics of immigration, displacement, state-sponsored violence, and memory using photography and archives. After living for more than seventeen years abroad and creating an extensive project on the loss of her father-in-law to the Gaddafi regime in Libya, she began the series My America (2016–18) to consider police killings of citizens in her country. Photographing more than three hundred places over a two-year period, Matar’s project covers just a fraction of the total 2,200 deaths between 2016–18 at the hands of police. She uses an iPhone to capture the images as commentary on how social media makes many such incidents visible to the public.
Matar creates her photographs in the exact spots where the police report lists the location of the murders, and their titles are simply the victim’s name, place of death, and birth and death years. For Unknown African American Male, Scurry, Texas (2016) the victim was unidentified, and little can be understood about what transpired to result in the loss of life, or how that life was mourned. Instead, a flock of birds flies overhead, as if they are the only witnesses to the tragedy. Like many of Matar’s other projects, the pictures in this series do not convey violence, and they show no trace of bloodshed, rather they serve as contemplations on the land as a constant presence and observer among ongoing human suffering.
Matar completed her MA from the Royal College of Art in London (2008) and her BA in Latin American studies and journalism from San Francisco State University (1996). Her work has been included in exhibitions at the Peterborough Museum, Peterborough, England (2006), Fotographie Forum International, Frankfurt (2006), Gallery of Photography at Temple Bar, Dublin (2007), National Museum of Singapore (2007), Ghandi Museum, London (2008), Houses of Parliament, London (2008), and the Tate Modern, London (2014). Her work was featured in the 2018 Museum of Contemporary Photography exhibition Traversing the Past: Adam Golfer, Diana Matar, Hrvoje Slovenc.