Main content

Purchase Photographers Look Through the Lens of Social Justice

Three Purchase College photographers have been honored by the Gordon Parks Foundation.

A senior in the Purchase Photography program, Zuri Seldon Jordan said, My work is a direct reaction to the injustices that black people f... A senior in the Purchase Photography program, Zuri Seldon Jordan said, “My work is a direct reaction to the injustices that black people face today.”
Credit: Zuri Seldon Jordan


Coming Together for Social Change

Since 2009, Purchase photography students and alumni have been awarded scholarships from the Gordon Parks Foundation, which honors the pioneering photographer and his dedication to fighting racial injustice. This year, for the first time, scholarship recipients also had the unique opportunity to present their work in a symposium centered on social justice and the arts.

On October 28, three of Purchase’s current awardees, Zuri Seldon Jordan ’18, Giancarlo Montes Santangelo ’18, and Christopher Postlewaite ’15, joined students from the Fashion Institute of Technology, NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, and the Pratt Institute for a powerful day of presentations and discussions about how creativity can help combat injustice and perpetuate political and social change.

Photography professor Joshua Lutz said, “The Gordon Parks Dialogues created a platform for the students to not only see but to feel the weight of the giants they are standing upon.  As they bravely unpacked their role in the issues important to them, our Purchase photography students presented how they are looking at race, class, gender, and sexuality. Behind the work they discussed was a quiet urgency, a call to action not just for those in the audience but for each of them to further look and understand what their role is creating a dialogue where conversations can happen.”

Drawing Inspiration

For Giancarlo Montes Santangelo, the symposium’s focus on the artistic process was energizing. He said, “It’s kind of the point of being a photographer, to open a dialogue about the content of the work and picture making as a whole; how we can improve and sustain honest, empathetic practices.”

Zuri Seldon Jordan found the opportunity to present her work to an outside audience challenging but fulfilling. “What I enjoyed most about the entire experience was hearing how other young people are tackling the same issues that Gordon Parks himself fought for,” she said. “It meant a great deal to know that although the art world is small we are still able to make a difference and have our work speak loudly to the world especially those around us. “

Looking Ahead

The three students believe the experience will stay with them for a long time. Christopher Postlewaite said, “I feel so grateful to have been able to participate and be in dialogue with such a diverse group of photographers working today. I hope people left feeling inspired, I know I certainly did,” he said.

Steve Lam, director of the School of Art+Design at Purchase, is thankful for the longstanding partnership. He said, “The Gordon Parks Foundation is truly an amazing organization that supports the research and work of a noteworthy and inspired artist activist. The legacy and spirit of Gordon Parks is certainly shared with the creative communities that surround the School of Art+Design and I’m thrilled that we were able to provide a forum for our students’ work.”

View the students’ work and learn more. 

The Gordon Parks Dialogues are co-sponsored by The Gordon Parks Foundation, NYU Tisch School of the Arts, and Pratt Institute.