For Laena Wilder, photography not only opens dialogue, but it also creates a thought-provoking record. With an under-graduate degree in documentary photography and a Masters of Fine Arts Degree from the University of North Carolina, Wilder uses the camera as a tool for gathering cultural information and facilitating exchange within racially diverse communities.

Wilder’s photographic projects include several ‘kids with camera’s’ projects she created and executed that promote diversity and cultural understanding within communities from North Carolina to Durban, South Africa. Her efforts have earned her a prestigious Rockefeller Fellowship Grant and her visual research has taken her throughout North America, Europe, India, Africa and South America.

Laena cherishes her many years of experience as an educator. Her curricula have included several practical, conceptual, and historical photography courses taught at Duke University’s Center for Documentary Studies, the University of San Francisco, the Academy of Art University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Most recently Wilder teamed up with Anthropologist Mary Strong and the University of Texas Press to produce a very distinctive textbook: Viewpoints, Visual Anthropologists at Work. This book introduces future anthropologists / photographers / documentarians to the practical, ethical, and cultural issues that arise while working with a camera in the field. For more information click here.

In addition to her documentary work, Wilder uses photography with mixed media in the studio to investigate issues of memory, desire and belonging. Her material choices reflect the concepts she is exploring; at times combining materials such as found photographs, aged mirrors, ocular eye pieces, resin and still images from video footage.

Exhibitions of Wilder‘s photographs have been displayed internationally and domestically, including the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, the Kostroma Municipal Gallery in Russia, SECCA – the South Eastern Center for Contemporary Art and Foto Gallerie in Hong Kong among others. Her work is in several private and corporate collections including San Francisco’s Modernism Gallery and the Gap Corporate Art Collection.

Wilder’s projects have garnered generous financial and material support from the Polaroid Corporation, the Rockefeller Foundation, UCIS - the University Center for International Studies, the Epson Corporation, LaCie, Ritz Camera’s, Central Carolina Bank, The Konica Corporation and Community 2000, a division of the Civil Rights Organization.

See Laena’s complete curriculum vitae here.

Next up: Origins and Destinations: Stories Found in the Faces at the Miami International Airport. A large-scale portrait project aiming to promote and celebrate cultural diversity. Read more here.