Here & Now: Work by the MFAEDA Class of 2020

Page 1

Here & Now

Work from the MFAEDA Class of 2020

On View & Online: September 10 - October 24, 2020 @Power Plant Gallery, Duke University

Š2020 Power Plant Gallery, a laboratory for the arts at Duke. Copyright for all works remains with the respective artists. Used here with permission. This zine edition is also made possible with the creativity and labor of Emma Geiger, Emily MacDiarmid, and Nathan Wright Duke University MFAEDA Class of 2022.

There is an old adage in photojournalism and it goes “f/8 and be there.”1 At f/8 one’s depth of field is generally wide enough to capture most moments in focus, and well, one needs to be there to capture anything. I mention it here to highlight the importance of “being there”—an action that has become more complicated with COVID and the virtual turn. The artists in Here & Now are all recent graduates of the MFA in Experimental and Documentary Arts program at Duke University. The art on display in this zine, and in the Power Plant Gallery, is the result of two years of being there. These artists have been present in the lives of their subjects, in the classrooms shared with their cohort, and in the intimacy of their own thoughts. The documentary work that has come from this engagement and commitment is varied. The exhibition presents us with loving images of a family home under construction, alongside moments of belonging, betrayal and redemption as visualized through golden busts, jeweled bibles and protective angels. A film documents the measured life of a Buddhist temple, while a photo project finds spirituality in the soft draping of Spanish moss on the Southern landscape. An installation questions the boundaries between our interior and exterior worlds, another offers a ritual of mourning, and a dedication to the ‘war and the memory of war.’ History tugs on the edges of memory in conceptual work that explores the Indian Boarding School in the early days of Trinity College. And history is again present in a photo project that centers the land as a protagonist in understanding the Mid-West. Nature and human intervention intertwine in a piece where the desire for conservation of a species and the need to survive collide in ways that offer no easy answer. Finally, both the human cost and structures of power are on display through images of coal ash amd the environment in a small North Carolina town. While the Power Plant Gallery cannot invite everyone to be in-person with this documentary work, we hope this zine, the extended interviews, links to virtual tours, and ways of engaging with the artists allow everyone a measure of being there. Thank you to the artists in Here & Now: Jing Cai, Cici Cheng, Lauren Henschel, Cassandra Klos, Zaire McPhearson, Minh Hoang Nguyen, Bishop Romero Ortega, Alanna Styler, Iliana Sun, and Will Warasila. Also thank you to Tom Rankin and Southern Cultures for permission to reprint his essay that follows. See the thesis work by all of the MFAEDA Class of 2020 at Caitlin Margaret Kelly Curator, Archive of Documentary Arts & Director, Power Plant Gallery Duke University


Often credited to photographer Arthur Fellig, aka Weegee.

This essay was originally published in Southern Cultures, Vol. 26, No. 1 Documentary Moment, Spring 2020

The Documentary Moment and the Revelations at Hand by Tom Rankin

For many years I’ve forbidden students in my photography courses from coming to class and talking about an image they saw but didn’t take. In a class built around the making of pictures, I insist, we take and look at actual photographs, not photographs that could have been. “I saw the most amazing photograph just this morning,” the story can start. “I was walking and the light was just perfect and then there was this broken-down car, the driver with his head under the hood, somebody sitting in the back seat, and just then a hawk flew low, seeming to be curious . . .” and so on it might go. It was seemingly a moment of clarity and magic and unique confluence, all witnessed, but there is no image to share with the other photographers or filmmakers in the class, not to mention an audience beyond. The photographs not taken are as legion as the stories heard but never recorded. Like the field note never registered on paper, what remains can be the memory, born of that instantaneous thing—the moment. The documentary artist attempts, however imperfectly, to do something about what they witness, how they feel, what they are compelled to say. That doing and making becomes, in turn, an extension of the initial instant—and of the memory— an effort, as Eudora Welty wrote, “imprisons a moment of time.”1 In this issue, we explore those instants, memories, and responses, the moments of impulse to document, comment, engage, act, and intervene. The documentary moment certainly includes photography’s long-recognized ability to create the illusion of time standing still, fixed, and frozen in an intentional but arbitrary frame. 1 Eudora Welty, “Literature and the Lens,” originally published in Vogue, August 1, 1944. Reprinted in Eudora Welty, Occasions, Selected Writings, ed. Pearly Amelia McHaney, (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2009), 71

Henri Cartier-Bresson drew the title to his canonical book The Decisive Moment, from Cardinal de Retz, whom he quotes in the introduction: “There is nothing in this world that does not have a decisive moment.” Cartier-Bresson continued to articulate ideas about seeing and capturing these fluid moments: “Of all the means of expression, photography is the only one that fixes forever the precise and transitory instant.” The “fixing” is what so many hope to do, wrestling with the passage of time, resisting the erasure of what actually happened.2 We also know “the moment” to mean the time we live in, the urgency we feel to respond to the ever-changing waters we find ourselves floating in—political, emotional, environmental—and to do it in order to amplify what we see, hear, and believe, to share it with others in hopes of revealing our own awakening to a broader audience. We live now, one might argue, in a constantly documented moment, with most of our public spaces under surveillance, with social media capturing and disseminating the mundane, exotic, and frightening at a pace impossible to fathom much less consume. In 1942, Roy Stryker, director of the New Deal–era Farm Security Administration photographers of the 1930s and ’40s, put forth his idea of documentary in an essay for The Complete Photographer: “Documentary is an approach, not a technique; an affirmation, not a negation . . . Every phase of our time and our surroundings has a vital significance and any camera in good repair is an adequate instrument. The job is to know enough about the subject matter to find its significance in itself and in its relation to its surroundings, its time, and its function.” Stryker’s assertion of documentary as an “affirmation” is more complex than it initially appears. He doesn’t mean that documentary is never critical or shouldn’t drive toward change and reform, but rather that in documenting “our time and our surroundings,” documentary artists not only affirm through the act of witnessing, but also affirm the valued role of engagement. Documentarians participate, intervene, and act in the communities, struggles, and stories that they record.3

2 3

Henri Cartier-Bresson, The Decisive Moment (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1952), n.p. Roy Stryker, “Documentary Photography,” The Complete Photographer, 1942.

This past August I was sitting with friends at the Wooden Nickel Pub in Hillsborough, North Carolina, on a late Sunday afternoon while we reflected on the power of an event we’d just come from celebrating the best of our community. Off the street, someone came into the Nickel and said a group of KKK members were gathering on the Orange County Courthouse steps, just over a block away. I immediately went in that direction, to witness and to photograph, to confront and to counter. I found some of the Klan members dressed in their regalia of sheets and hoods, others sporting all-too-common Confederate and white supremacist symbols on T-shirts and hats. Within minutes, it seemed, word had spread through the community and there was a healthy counterprotest that grew steadily larger, with many local residents coming to challenge the hatred, racism, and anti-Semitism in clear and dramatic view. Why the impulse to photograph such a moment? I’ve heard for years the advice that we should pay these kinds of people no attention and that will make them go away, that they are fringe crazies, and that eventually the old generation will die out

Photographs by Tom Rankin

and times will be better. Yet how can we ignore a moment like this this, a demonstration of hate on the steps of the county courthouse, a diabolical intervention into the quiet of a town? The impulse in the moment is to engage, witness, see, hear. I asked if it was all right to photograph because I try to ask whenver possible. Since then, I’ve thought that my request for permission may well have been disingenuous since I would’ve photographed regardless of the answer. My confidence to walk up and begin photographing in a situation like this comes in part from my privilege of being white, of having local knowledge of that space, appearing to be a typical weathered photojournalist, and my experience of being in so many situations with my camera through the years. I also was fuled by anger, a defiant sense that this group of hooded racists had no right to occupy the front steps of the ourthouse without confontration. I moved closer, drawn by the sheer ugliness of the reality and a desire to see if getting closer helped to see through such darkness. I was doing what I typically do when I’m drawn by what I see—I photographed. Soon, a diverse crowd of local citizens gatherd in counterdemonstration, many also documenting with cell phones. We so often document out of intuition, propelled perhaps by the heart as much as the head. I knew as I was taking photographs that I had no specific plans for the film I was exposing, but doing nothing or looking away didn’t seem an option. I wanted to get close, to witness, and I to ask questions. I photographed what my mind now reads as a father and son, the two standing side by side, one fully attired in his Klan outfit, the younger boy in a White Knights T-shirt. I think it was the space between us—the actual physical space but also my own human relation to seeing a father and son—that drew me to look closer. There is something timeless and yet contemporary about the moment of these images, something familiar in the familial yet so frightening in the transmission of malevolence from one generation to the next. “Surely some revelation

is at hand,” wrote Yeats—and perhaps the revelation in this era of Charleston and Charlottesville (and Ferguson and Isla Vista and Standing Rock...) is what we must “fix” these moments so that we truly see them.4

When the Washington Post published Hillsborough writer Steven Petrow’s

opinion piece about that day, they chose not to run an image from the Klan gathering in Hillsborough,and ran instead an archival image from a cross burning near Yanceyville, NC from two years earlier. It is an image that, shall we say, keeps it’s distance, a nighttime cross burning out in the country, not of a peaceful Sunday afternoon in the middle of town. What is it we fear in calling it as it is, of showingwhat happened and to whom? Perhaps we fearmisinterpretation or confrontation or retraumitizing communities who’ve (historically) had to bear these assaults and threats. Or perhaps we worry that we’re giving too much credence to these folks, that by picturing them we are somehow propelling them forward, unintentionally affirming their behavior. But if we don’t take the picture in the first place—if we don’t respond honestly to the moment—we can’t even begin this conversation with ourselves and others, can’t decide whether to publish or show and image (since it doesn’t exist), can’t deliverate about the correct course of action. That, too, is part of our collective moment—and part of the revelation at hand. To do something about what we see— that phrase “if you see something, say something”—particularly when what we see is in plain sight, in the public sphere, intended to intimidate and disturb, to disrupt and scare, is our task as documentarians. Visual expression speaks in ways that words can’t, and documentary images of the dark as well as the radiant, of hatred as well as the beloved community, are vital. There is no way I can make a “pretty” picture of Ku Klux Klan. Who really desires to take or see an image like that? Yet, Bresson’s “precise instant” and Stryker’s “vital significance” urge us to look squarely at what we find on our doorsteps, perhaps especially when it is reprehensible and dangerous, and create evidence from the moment.5 4 William Butler Yeats, “The Second Coming,” Poetry Foundation, accessed December 19, 2019, 5 Washington Post, “The KKK came to my town. But hate has no home here,” Steven Petrow, August 30, 2019. Published online,

Documentary artists might find it a challenge to be living in an age when everything seems to be photographed or otherwise documented by our smartphones. The sheer number and ubiquity of images poses new challenges in this era, yet it is incumbent upon documentary artists to make work that rises above the noise and compels us to face the truth through images, sounds, personal documents. Now more than ever, we need nuanced documentary expression to hold the present up in stark clarity, a kind of mirror of our moment. We need those images that leave us wondering whether we are in the past or in the present, documentary stories that challenge us to see the darkness and light, what we thought, or whished, was gone that is clearly still in our midst. To look away, to not record, is always a choice, but that is akin to refusing to listen to calls of admonition, to the satisfied laughter of community, to the howl of the lost and forgotten. There is no future in doing nothing about what we see around us. The documentary moment is never generic, is never without particularities of place, weather, politics. This moment we live in now, it seems, has more dark clouds than clear skies. If we are to make an honest rendering of this time we need to include those shadows within and among our images of more cherished light. ____ Tom Rankin is the director of the MFA in Experimental and Documentary Arts Program and professor of the practice of art, art history & visual studies at Duke University. A photographer, filmmaker, and folklorist, he has been documenting and interpreting American culture for nearly twenty years.



The Indian boarding school uniform’s sole purpose was to strip the Indigenous child of their cultural identity by wrapping them in Western culture and put them in-line with American society. It’s a symbol of the United States policy to “Kill the Indian, Save the Man.” Incorporating historical research and materials from Duke University’s archives, this installation tells the story of Duke’s missing uniforms.

Bishop Romero Ortega, a documentarian and conceptual artist from Phoenix, Arizona who tells stories primarily through film and photography but also works in various kinds of mediums. Currently lives with his wife and 4 children in Cary N.C. where he is in the final year of the MFA Experimental Documentary Arts program at Duke University. As a Documentarian and Artist, he seeks to tell stories in Non-Western and European ways. Stories of people and events forgotten and not talked about, in order to ask questions and raise awareness. These stories have no intended political slant or affiliation. He tries to avoid social fads and causes that easily burn out and are quickly replaced by the next trending movement. It is his hope to create work that allows people to slow down and think, before responding.

“The Indians must conform to ‘the white man’s ways’, peace to their environment, and conform their mode of living substantial but it is the best the Indians can get. They cannot escape it, and should be broken up, socialism destroyed, and the family and the

eably if they will, forcibly if they must. They must adjust themselves lly to our civilization. This civilization may not be the best possible, must either conform to it or be crushed by it. The tribal relations e autonomy of the individual substituted.� -Thomas Morgan U.S. Commissioner of Indian Affairs

Richard H. Smith

Nick Toineetee

Will Long West

Ned Stamper

Bird Goins

Loyd Owl

Quincy Smith

Isaac Wolf

Age 18 (1883-1884)

Age 16 (1883-1884)

Age 18 (1883-1884)

Age 14 (1883-1884)

Age 17 (1883-1884)

Age 17 (1883-1884)

Age 15 (1883-1884)

Age 11 (1883-1884)

Jacob Wolf

Sam Wolf

Age 13 (1883-1884)

Age 13 (1883-1884)

Josiah Wilson

Loyd A. Smith Age 15 (1883-1884)

John Wolf

Age 16 (1883-1884)

Roger Jason

Levi Queen

Simpson Queen

John Jason

David Owl

George Wahew

Welch Goins

Age 16 (1883-1884)

Age 15 (1883-1884)

Age 13 (1883-1884)

Age 12 (1883-1884)

Age 8 (1883-1884)

Age 11 (1883-1884)

Age 16 (1883-1884)

Age 11 (1883-1884)

Click here to view an artist interview.

With A Smile on Their Face With a smile on their face, we are called Savages, wild, heathen, and red-skinned. With a smile, we are shown our classroom And told not to interact with the white students. With a smile, we are told: “Honey, you can’t go in there.” “Sugar, you can’t talk to them.” “You can’t eat with the white students.” With a smile, we’re seated in the back of the chapel And the minister says we are bound for hell. The Devil is listening when we pray in our language, God speaks English. With a smile, we are told to stop speaking our ancestral language And to stop singing our traditional songs. With a smile, we were taken from our families They removed our clothes and cut our hair. With a smile, we were forced to wear these heavy uniforms And march in the humid air. With a smile the command us to work their farm, Tend to their animals, and do their laundry quietly. With a smile they make us eat their food and drink their cow’s milk Even though they know it makes us sick and hurts our stomachs. With a smile on their face, they have forgotten about us And didn’t tell anybody that we were here.

Why did they let us go? I heard some of our parents were told: If they let us go and become educated, We could learn to become teachers and farmers like their white neighbors With less struggles and more ways to make money, we could survive And have land and business of our own. They wouldn’t have to pay any money for, food, board, or clothing The US government would pay everything based on agreements already made. All they had to do was let us go down to Randolph County Which wasn’t as far as Pennsylvania and the Day Schools ran by missionaries Were too much of a hassle and none of the kids like to go. While other parents, With hunting grounds gone and no longer free To fish and pick wild greens, fruits, and nuts Without being chased off someone’s land. Our land used for farming was vanishing While the number of white neighbors grew. This was an opportunity to better utilize the government rations For the younger, older, and everybody was getting sick. If they weren’t sick, too many of our relatives were missingWho was left to farm, hunt, and fish anyways? They had to let us go. Can I blame them?






IMAGE 20-07-11_Jul 08 2020_592

Lullaby for the 49th Day In Vietnamese funeral tradition, following someone’s death, they spend 49 days in a liminal state between death and being reborn. On the 49th day, the surviving family members hold a ceremony to commemorate the deceased being reborn and the living to resume their lives. This exhibition is dedicated to not only the people who was affected by the Vietnam War but also the war and the memory of the war itself.

Minh Hoang Nguyen is an interdisciplinary artist from Hanoi, Vietnam. His work is predominantly image-based. His interests include street photography, documentary, and more conceptual expressions, especially self-portraiture. His recent work has been focusing on the theme of representation, trauma and healing. | | Instagram: @hoangmn92



This series gives a voice to the women that were silenced through mental, physical and emotional abuse and their transition that led them to where they are today. This series is a multimedia project that includes, photography, paintings, sculptures, and stained-glass pieces. This project is a complex layering of stories, that illustrates the lives of the remaining women who are willing to tell their stories and their long recovery back to their faith. Belief and Faith are powerful and in misguiding hands, it can take you from the highest mountain to the lowest valley. A tale of misplaced trust, a fall from grace, and a prayer of hope tell the story of how the “Prayer Band� members persevered to give their families a new start. These women have continued their strong walk of faith and believe when you take your eyes off of God, you lose focus and fall from grace.

Zaire McPhearson received her B.A. from South Carolina State University (Orangeburg, SC) and is currently pursuing an MFA in Experimental and Documentary Arts from Duke University (Durham, NC). She is a multidisciplinary artist who works across various mediums and platforms. Her strong upbringing in the church led her to the exploration of African American entities through religion and faith. Through her experiences in church, she is able to navigate and explore religion through many controversial topics. She creates artwork that touches on the divine spiritual being and challenges the narrative of traditional biblical figures. She considers her work a love letter to black womanhood. |

Click here to view an artist interview.



Cici Cheng is a Chinese born U.S. photographer who grew up in Durham, North Carolina. She is a graduate of the California Institute of the Arts, where she received her BFA and discovered her focus on family, identity and cultural transition through visual storytelling. A passionate educator, she is continuing to explore and teach about finding the edges of self-comfort.

My parents had the opportunity to buy their first and forever home. This work is a gateway to the moments and changes that my family is experiencing throughout this modification. It is also my exploration of cultural identity and understanding what home means to a person.


STYER A Prairie, Not a Promise

Alanna Styer (b. 1993 St. Louis, MO) is an interdisciplinary documentary artist and activist, who engages with omitted histories and cultural change. Her work focuses on the understandings of community, storytelling, and trauma, as they relate to land andplace. Styer earned her MFA in Experimental and Documentary Arts from Duke University (2020) and BFA in photography from Watkins College of Art, Design and Film (2015). Artist Statement As an artist I use photography, book-making, and moving images to engage with omitted histories and documentation of cultural change. I have used these mediums to tell personal stories and histories of trauma, myth, and tradition as they relate to land and geography. The land on which we live is intrinsically linked to how we define place and culture; the borders of which are ever changing and often political. I began this vein of work while living in Nashville, Tennessee, and thinking of how different my hometown of St. Louis, Missouri looked. These visual contrasts spoke to larger cultural, historical, and demographic differences. Centering my imagery around landscape, I am able to look at how people interact with space; what is valued, and what is not present. I primarily photograph with medium and large format film cameras and use a tripod for my moving image work. This stability in form and physicality allows me to work at a pace that allows for slow observation; leading to subtle imagery that requires close examination and prompts curiosity. My work is an investigation and, as such, invites viewers to have conversations and make natural connections to their own lives and traditions. | | Instagram: @a_lot_a_alanna

A Prairie, Not a Promise is an examination of the history and myths of the Midwestern United States. This project challenges the assumed banality and purity of the region. When using the term Heartland, one doesn’t necessarily think of the geographic boundaries of the Midwest, rather it implies an idealized place where people are kind, and work hard. It denotes ideas of whiteness, the middle class, and those striving for “the American dream”. The strength of this fantasy has constructed a mass apathy towards the Midwest and stifled critical investigation of its lore and history. So dominant is the Heartland myth, that our legends and history books support these ideas of hard work and kindness over the brutal reality. The Heartland myth ignores the genocide and forced removal of Native people that predicated the wagon trains and prairie towns; that Sacagawea was not helping Lewis & Clark out of pure kindness but that she was enslaved; that within the Midwest are some of the most segregated cities in the United States, some of which were explicitly built to be white utopias. The Heartland myth supports the idea that if you work hard and follow the rules you can achieve the “American Dream” but it does not acknowledge the mass abuse of workers and the corporate overreach in agriculture and manufacturing that plagues the region. The Midwest reflects the greater history of the United States, yet it is left out of many history books and photographic records; to ignore what has happened here only supports the assumption that nothing has happened here. Having grown up in St. Louis, I returned to photograph the Midwest in order to trace its histories and honor those that have been forgotten or intentionally erased. I travelled thousands of miles, across 13 states. I spent time at county fairs, parades, protests, museums and my own family gatherings. I photographed the land that has been marked by history, trauma and change. I photographed the boundaries, the markings of human existence and culture. I conducted interviews, recorded the radio on my long drives and filmed the rising river waters. Presented here is an excerpt from this ongoing project.


WARA Quicker than Coal Ash The people of Walnut Cove, North Carolina live in the shadow of Duke Energy’s Belews Creek Steam Station, where toxic coal ash is kept in a massive unlined storage pond, and toxins are pumped into the air, water, and soil. I spent the last year and a half getting to know the residents, the landscape, the structures of energy and power. For the first few months I explored Stokes County without making a photograph. I drove in circles around Belews Lake and the steam station, and through the towns that surround the lake. The more I visited, the more I got out of my car. Then I started trying to talk to folks. In fall 2018, I was invited to a coal ash healing service at a church called The Well—an old house with a Moravian-style wooden sign outside, painted green and yellow with a white dove in the middle. On the far side of the house was a yellow and green striped tent with a stage at the back and rows of plastic fold-up chairs. The tent was about half full, containing a pretty diverse group of people. I sat down with them. A middle-aged man spoke early on in the service. He said, Four years ago, you couldn’t pay me to be here, but now no one can pay me not to be here. He described how his mother had passed away from cancer because of the toxic water, soil, and air in Walnut Cove. This is not acceptable, he said. Duke Energy is trying to silence me with money; I will not be silent. He started crying.

ASILA Pastor Leslie Brewer then gave her sermon, which has stayed with me. She said, Bitterness will kill you quicker than coal ash. And, We must forgive Duke Energy for what they have done to the community and to the state, but that does not mean we have to remain silent. We must fight righteously. There is an army rising up. While trying to understand the slow violence of coal ash and the many issues surrounding the Belews Steam Station, I read a number of articles published by various news sources. The images that accompanied these stories showed what you might expect to see: protests, leaders delivering speeches, the steam station, and occasionally, a bird’s-eye view of the lake, ash pond, and power plant. More often than not, the writer and the photographer dropped in and out of the community very quickly. As I dug deeper into the concerns of Walnut Cove, I realized that I was trying to find a different path. During my first recorded interview with Pastor Lesley, I asked her, What is coal ash? At first she replied that coal ash was simply a nuisance. Coal ash is what you got all over the cars and the roofs and anything you left outside. . . . Then it changed from a nuisance into a poison. Growing up, she and her family had Belews Creek flowing by, and we’d swim in it. After the Steam Station was built, it became a sort of wasteland. Most of this transformation, the harm being done to the land and its residents, is invisible and impossible to photograph. Nevertheless, I have attempted to make images that address this shift.

Installation at the Rubenstein Arts Center, Duke University



By No Other Name explores the visualization of belief as a pillar of spirituality, tradition, and folklore. By examining the Southern landscape as a mythological place ripe with evidence and markings of stories past, this project documents the experiences of the people who search for meaning that the natural world can provide them. |

Cassandra Klos (b. 1991) is a fine art and editorial visual storyteller. A New Englander at heart, she grew up in New Hampshire where she gained a greater appreciation for the natural world, space, and the diversity of the human experience. Her work often focuses on interrogating the validity of photography by means of simulated histories and dual realities, breathing life into situations where visual manifestations may not be available. Her work has been exhibited across the United States and in countries such as Switzerland, South Africa, Nigeria. Notably she has held solo exhibitions at the Griffin Museum of Photography and the Boston Public Library in Boston, Massachusetts, and the Cassilhaus Collection in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Her work has been published in TIME, National Geographic, Wired, Bloomberg Businessweek, and Outside Magazine, among others.

Click here to view an artist interview.


Click here to view a tour.

What happens when what is

Lauren Henschel is a visual artist working primarily in 16mm film, installation, performance and medium format still photography. Her work interrogates questions around guilt, illness, disability, shame and mortality and seeks to defy or alter an audience’s expectations of what art can reveal about the experience of inhabiting a body.



most familiar becomes alien?


Born and raised in Miami, Florida, Lauren is currently based in Durham, N.C. She holds a B.A. in Visual Media Studies, a certificate in Documentary Film, and a minor in Cultural Anthropology from Duke University. Her work has been displayed at numerous venues, including Carnegie Hall and the Miami Art Museum. She is currently a candidate in the Master of Fine Arts in Experimental and Documentary Arts Program at Duke University.

Click here to view Ins

stallation Process Video

Click here to view Docum

mentation of Thesis Show



When We Say Vaquitas, What Are We Talking About A small animal can have great impact on a large circle of people. The battle around Vaquitas has been going on for decades and it is coming to an end. Witness this battle through the eyes of people that have different values and goals. Click here to view the interactive website.

Iliana Sun is a biologist artist telling stories using the camera. Her work focuses on advocating a scientific, objective, and behavioral understanding of the animals without romanticism. She believes that stories deserve to be treated patiently and gently. She strives to tell stories through multiple perspectives and unveil the layers beneath those stories. |

Video Still

Temple and Life



Xuefeng Temple 雪峰寺 Jing Cai is from Fuzhou, China. She studied communication and minor in social entrepreneurship at Northeastern University. She is an alumni of the Master of Fine Arts in Experimental and Documentary Arts Program at Duke University. |

Click here to watch Xuefeng Temple 雪峰寺

Press & Other Works Jing Cai • Duke MFAEDA Class of 2020 Cici Cheng • Duke Arts: Cici Cheng MFA EDA ‘20: How to Build a Home Lauren Henschel • Duke Arts: Lauren Henschel MFA EDA -20: “Fibers of Being” • Center for Documentary Studies: Hine Fellow • Forum for Scholars and Publics: Flowering and Decay • Forum for Scholars and Publics: Ghost Pain: Caregiving, Documentary, and Radical Empathy Cassandra Klos • Duke Arts: Cassandra Klos MFA EDA ‘20: By No Other Name • Kenan Institute for Ethics: Graduate Arts Fellow • PHROOM Magazine: Mars on Earth • International Photography Magazine: Mars on Earth • National Geographic Magazine: Landin on Mars is Harder Than You Think • Zeitz MOCAA • Photoville, The Fence: The Abductees Zaire McPhearson • Duke Arts: Zaire McPhearson MFA EDA ‘20: A Fall From Grace • Duke’s Creative Lab for Arts Entrepeneurship • Duke Arts Talks by Student Affairs • Artfields: Totality Minh-Hoang Nguyen • Duke Arts Home & Away: Minh-Hoang Nguyen: “Imossibility of Intimacy” Bishop Romero Ortega • The Invisible People Alanna Styer • Duke Arts: Alanna Styer MFA Eda ‘20: “A Prairie, Not A Promise” • Casserole Series: Alanna Styler • Southeast Museum of Photography: Separate Together • Float Magazine: The Road Iliana Sun • Duke Arts: Iliana Sun ‘18 MFA EDA ‘20: When We Say Vaquitas What Are We Talking About • Duke’s Creative Lab for Arts Entrepeneurship • Duke Arts Talks by Student Affairs • 919-660-3622