In Senegal, portraiture serves as a vital index and creator of social connection. People sit for and display portraits, keep albums, and view illustrated magazines together. Through these portraiture practices, Senegalese have fashioned idealized images to mend fraught and fragmented lives in the context of decades of migration.
The Future Is in Your Hands provides an expansive frame for photography to highlight the role of affect in portraiture practices. Moving from the colonial to the newly independent Senegal, Beth Buggenhagen combines museum, ethnographic, and archival research on photography's past with lens-based artists who address themes of separation, visibility, rupture, and repatriation through portraiture. Buggenhagen, in collaboration with Senegalese photographers, explores how photographs, as visual and material objects, migrate themselves and, like the bodies they represent, create a record not only of lived experiences but also of the cycle of migration for this labor-exporting country.
By complicating the history of portraiture in Senegal, The Future Is in Your Hands reveals the enduring power of images and the efforts under way to keep this art form safely in Senegalese hands.