Hi, my name is Antonia Levy. I am your instructor for this class. I am originally from (East) Germany and came to the US a few years ago to study for my PhD in sociology. I have been teaching at Queens College for several semesters; mostly classes in sex and gender, labor studies, on the sex workers’ rights movement, and now — for the third time — visual sociology.
I chose these picture to introduce myself to you, my students, for several reasons. Both photos were taken in the summer of 2009 in Berlin, in a neighborhood called Friedrichshain where you still find remnants of squat houses, numerous alternative cafes, and collective left projects. It is covered in graffiti and street art. It is also an area marked by growing gentrification and the resistance against such tendencies — as expressed in this graffiti.
With both pictures I hope to show my interest in photographing street art, especially political graffiti, my appreciation for alternative communities and their struggle, as well as express my concerns for neighborhoods faced by rising rents and commercialized public space. I found the stencil in the second picture a beautiful fit for our class: when taking this picture it felt like I am looking in a mirror, photographing myself, the photographer. It’s this kind of reflexivity I hope we can develop over the course of the semester in this class.