“The XX exhibit project for the Irwin and Xenia S. Miller Prize was an opportunity to bring the community together to celebrate women who have changed our lives and shaped our cities. This year-long process, focused on centering women and women’s stories through portraiture as a form of storytelling culminated in a meaningful collaboration with the Columbus community. Portraiture played a significant and active role in celebrating the individual and the collective community simultaneously. Working both as a tool of engagement and also as a tool of visual storytelling, portraiture can be utilized as an active act of engagement, and not simply an outcome or product.”
In the third volume of Active Landscape Photography, Diverse Practices, edited by Anne C Godfrey (Routledge, 2023), Rhiannon Sinclair and Sahar Coston-Hardy wrote a chapter on their experiences leading engagement through portraiture with the Columbus, Indiana community. Their chapter explores how photography, specifically portraiture, is used as a visual storytelling technique and community engagement tool to build a deeper relationship between a collaborative team of design professionals and a photographer, and a community’s narratives about history and place.
Photography was used to uplift individual stories that in turn highlighted and helped the team understand the community. The portraits were paired with commentary from the subjects who shared the stories of women who have impacted their lives within the larger dialogue of the erasure of women and their contribution in history. Along with myriad community engagement methods, designers use photography as a storytelling tool and allow community members to see their perspectives play out in the process and the ultimate design.
As a 2018-9 J. Irwin and Xenia S. Miller Prize Winner, Agency presented a site-specific installation at the Exhibit Columbus National Symposium, which opened in August 2019. Our project – entitled XX – was sited at the AT&T Facility, built in 1978 and designed by Paul A. Kennon. To learn more about the XX Miller Prize, click here.