Carrie Mae Weems

Hasselblad Award Winner 2023

Hasselblad Center

October 14  2023–January 21 2024

This exhibition celebrates Carrie Mae Weems, the 2023 Hasselblad Award winner. It includes seven prominent bodies of work which reflect Weems’s commitment to social justice. Photography is one of the tools she uses in confronting the painful past that shapes our present and in scrutinizing power – whether in personal relationships or political structures.


A central body of work in the exhibition is the landmark Kitchen Table Series from 1990. The twenty staged tableaux are set in the artist’s own kitchen. Weems plays the main character in a story about a woman and her various roles of lover, friend, and mother. The series illuminates the kitchen table as the centre stage on which our lives are played out. Making this private setting public – and offering glimpses into the everyday life of a Black woman – is a political act of empowerment. Following the cinematographic and performative aspects of her practice, we encounter the artist thirty years on, in another kitchen, in the video work The Search (2020). This time, the kitchen is the setting where Weems contemplates resisting racism and the need for social change. The works All the Boys (2016) and Remember Me (2019) refer to the systematic oppression and the disproportionate incarceration of Black men. The double portraits allude to police mugshots and create an awareness of how police, the media, and a large part of the public perceive and represent them as criminals. In Blue Notes (2014–15), colour blocks are added to grainy, blue-tinted portraits mainly of Black artists, showing who is and is not included in the cultural canon. Constructing History (2008) depicts re-enactments of historical events of violence, such as the assassinations of civil rights leaders Malcolm X and Martin Luther King or President John F. Kennedy. The artist examines how these brutal events have shaped, and still shape, the lives of Americans.

The history of slavery and the violent legacies of colonialism form the core of this exhibition. A prominent example is the series From Here I Saw What Happened and I Cried (1995–96), consisting of historical photographs of Black individuals. Daguerreotypes of enslaved persons photographed in the 1850s are juxtaposed with other violent, reductive, and stereotyping imagery – all tinted blood red. Standing in sharp contrast to these images is Weems’s earliest body of work, Family Pictures and Stories (1978–84), in which she intimately portrays her own family. The work forms a unique family album, as well as a larger narrative about the lives of Black Americans, affectively captured through tender and intimate moments.


Carrie Mae Weems was born in 1953 in Portland, Oregon and lives in Syracuse, New York.


The exhibition at the Hasselblad Center is the artist’s first solo exhibition in Sweden and is part of the Hasselblad Award, which also consists of 2,000,000 Swedish krona and a gold medal. In addition, the laureate receives a Hasselblad camera from the Gothenburg-based company Hasselblad.

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