i was here

Barry Darnell Burton, Project Manager

Marjorie Guyon, Artist

Patrick J. Mitchell, Photographer

I Was Here began in 2016 with a set of emblematic Ancestor Spirit Portraits created by photographing contemporary African Americans as archetypal Ancestor Spirits. The portraits embody Family: mother, father, brother, sister. They form cohesive, ethereal images that convey the dignity of the African American individual and family – imagery mostly missing in America’s visual history. The “here” of I Was Here begins with an honest look at the history of place. Ancestor Spirit Portraits have been integrated into key historic sites across America. Through these installations, these iconic Spirit Portraits create a visual for an invisible history, asking us to examine who we are to each other, who we are as a nation and how we can work to create a shared citizenship.

What I Was Here accomplishes with its public art and public history installations is a mindful, reverent, and powerful acknowledgment of American history; history that may be misunderstood, misinterpreted, ignored, or simply forgotten. The project invites and encourages visitors to allow this acknowledgment to hold public space and to accept the echoes layered into the project’s name, I Was Here.