MacArthur Fellows Program

Carrie Mae Weems

Photographer and Video Artist | Class of 2013

Examining the legacy of African American identity, class, and culture in cinéma vérité–style works that incorporate elements of folklore, multimedia collage, and experimental printing methods.

Photographer and Video Artist
Syracuse, New York
60 at time of award
Area of Focus
Photography, Moving Image
Published September 25, 2013

About Carrie Mae's Work

Carrie Mae Weems is a photographer and video installation artist examining the complex and contradictory legacy of African American identity, class, and culture in the United States. Her intimate depictions of children, adults, and families in simple settings document and interpret the ongoing and centuries-old struggle for racial equality, human rights, and social inclusion in America.

In images that are lyrical and evocative, Weems unites critical social insight with enduring aesthetic mastery. Her signature works over three decades—Ain’t Joking (1987), The Kitchen Table Series (1990), From Here I Saw What Happened and I Cried (1995), The Louisiana Project (2004), Roaming (2006)—juxtapose the harsh realities of race, class, and gender discrimination with the dignity and resilience of the human character in everyday life. She enriches the traditional black-and-white cinéma vérité style with African American folklore, multimedia collage, and experimental printing methods, and in many of her prints, she casts herself as silent witness and guiding avatar through “fictional documentaries” in contemporary surroundings or historical recreations. Resurrecting lives and legacies invisible in plain sight, familiar but unseen, Weems creates a poignant and revealing visual archive of the human condition.

Recently, she has extended her talent to social reform efforts in Syracuse, New York, with projects such as Operation Activate, a public art campaign to create awareness of an initiative to stop gun violence, and the Institute of Sound and Style, a pilot summer program that engages local youth in experiential training in visual art. An extraordinary photographer and social activist, Weems is demonstrating the power of art to directly impact a community broadly, beyond patrons of museums or private exhibitions.


Carrie Mae Weems received a B.F.A. (1981) from the California Institute of the Arts and an M.F.A. (1984) from the University of California at San Diego, and she studied at the University of California at Berkeley from 1984 to 1987. Her work has been exhibited at such national and international venues as the Guggenheim Museum, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Museum of Modern Art, the Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston, the Tate Liverpool, and the Bilbao Fine Arts Museum.

Select News Coverage of Carrie Mae Weems
June 1, 2020
"Carrie Mae Weems: A Crack in the Cultural Armor"
The New York Times
Carrie Mae Weems, 2013 MacArthur Fellow
October 15, 2018
"How Carrie Mae Weems Rewrote the Rules of Image-Making"
The New York Times
Carrie Mae Weems, 2013 MacArthur Fellow
August 9, 2018
"The Story Behind TIME's Spike Lee Cover"
Carrie Mae Weems, 2013 MacArthur Fellow
January 8, 2018
"This Artist is Taking on America’s History of Violence"
PBS NewsHour
Carrie Mae Weems, 2013 MacArthur Fellow
December 14, 2017
"In a Time of Violence, Artists Probe Its Costs"
The New York Times
Jason Moran, 2010 MacArthur Fellow
Carrie Mae Weems, 2013 MacArthur Fellow
Lynn Nottage, 2007 MacArthur Fellow
View all news

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Please credit: John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation

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