In the article “Holding a Mirror to Race” posted on the New York Times Lens blog, Maurice Berger writes that Philosophy Chair Gregory Fried’s Mirror of Race project “addresses a drawback in dealing with racism: Most Americans would rather not talk about the racial anxieties, suspicions and stereotypes that keep them apart. But the website shows that photography can be an effective way to jostle even well-intentioned people out of denial.”
The Mirror of Race is a Web-based project that uses 19th century photography to challenge viewers’ attitudes about race. The interactive website also includes scholarly essays and video. An exhibit at the University’s Adams Gallery offers a close-hand look at the original daguerreotypes and other photography used on the website.
In a Guardian blog post, "Antique photographs show the history of race in black and white," Jonathan Jones writes: "There's no cosy nostalgia here. As its name indicates, the site is concerned with the history of race. It brings together a large number of photographs that reveal experiences and ideologies of racial difference in 19th-century America. Not only are they haunting and troubling but the way they are presented is sophisticated and subtle."
The Lens article quotes Fried on the project: “Photography has the paradoxical ability to allow us to contemplate intimately from a safe distance, and so, like an anesthetic, photography can give us the opportunity to confront the historical reality of race without recoiling in anger, guilt, or fear. It gives us the chance to reflect and to think without immediately turning away from what is uncomfortable.”
Fried collaborated with storyteller and Distinguished Visiting Scholar Derek Burrows and collector Greg French on the Mirror of Race project.