Erin is the author of Photography and Africa, (Reaktion, London, 2010). Presently a Research Associate at the National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, she co-directs Friday-Born Projects. Prior to this she was a Post-Doctoral Fellow with the Smithsonian Institution, having completed her PhD in the History of Art, SOAS, University of London. Her doctoral work considered the nature of history, memory, and the status and materiality of photography, photo-related phenomena, public performance and urban space in the spectrum of creative media in 19th and 20th century Ghana, as well as a broader consideration of photography’s ambulatory pasts and presences in west African, colonial, diasporic and archival collections. This work was based on extended research in greater Accra, Kumasi, Cape Coast, Elmina, Cotonou and Lagos during residencies from 1996-2005.
She has worked extensively with African and photography collections at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Smithsonian, museum collections and archives in the UK, The Netherlands, Germany and Switzerland. Solicited curatorial projects include Barbot in West Africa, 2003, National Archives at Kew, and Depth of Field, 2005, South London Gallery. At the Smithsonian, current projects involve a number of museums, including the creation of new platforms for historical and contemporary African photographers, the curation of digital-source reflections on independence-era anniversaries, leading a symposium on the futures of material and virtual archives across African contexts, and collaborating on the 2012 exhibition and volume African Cosmos.
She has taught and written on a variety of subjects in Ghana, the UK, and the US. Among these are artistic modernisms and modernities 1850 to the present; theories of art history and visual culture; the conjunctions of public performance, architecture, dance and memory; photographic media in historical, material, political and cultural frames of global Africa; criticism and positioning of museums and area studies; and theorizing photographic matrices beyond Euro-American institutions and inscription.
She is the author of Photography and Africa, (2010, London), as well as numerous articles on the intersection of performance, photography, iterative media and oral history in early modern west African cities. Her articles appear in African Arts, History of Photography, Aperture, Autograph-ABP, Afriphoto, Theory Culture & Society, Visual Anthropology, and New Awakenings. Her work also will appear in the forthcoming exhibition catalogue on J.D. ‘Okhai Ojeikere (eds. Byrd, Seikkula, and Silva), Portrait Photography in African Worlds (eds. Cameron and Peffer), and Photography in Africa (ed. Vokes). Invited lectures on these projects presented at Point-Sud in Bamako, Mali, Oxford University, University of California-Santa Barbara, City College New York, Baltimore Museum of Art, Massachusetts College of Art, the National Museum of African Art, SOAS, Birkbeck, and Goldsmiths College, London.
Her current and upcoming projects involve new efforts and collaborations among photographers, artists, cultural critics, curators, musicians, and academics on shaping and new models for civic/creative spaces and venues in African cities. One recent collaboration considers the recent incarnations of photography exhibition, collection, and promotion of artists at the latest iteration of the Bamako Rencontres and on neo-liberal arts policy and support in Africa. Artist interviews projects turn a critical eye toward the interventions, new artistic forums and institutions currently under planning and construction by artist/curator teams in different African cities, among them Addis Ababa, Algiers, Cairo, Luanda, Lagos, Bamako, Nairobi, Lubumbashi, Tangiers and Kumasi.
A second strand of partnerships centres on the precariousness lack of resources and support for personal photographic and civic archives on the continent. Online infrastructure exacerbates this imbalance, and semantic work on photography equally complex. One of many collaborations linking Washington DC and Basel pushes for US and European archives to form novel undertakings with to support archives on the African continent http://africaphotography.org/
A third strand invokes new curatorial expansions: 19th and 20th c. creative modernisms in ambulatory African photographic space, strands of social criticism in the work of contemporary photographers, the subjectivities of African disapora in the Middle East, and the efflorescence of digital creative practice determined by rapidly-expanding bandwidth.