Profile: Ayana V. Jackson (1977-)

Ayana V. Jackson is an American photographer and filmmaker. Born in Livingston, New Jersey, she received her B.A. in Sociology from Spelman College in 1999. In 2005, at the invitation of professor Khatarina Sieverding, she studied critical theory and large format printing at the University of Arts Berlin. She is best known for her focus on Contemporary Africa and the African Diaspora, most notably the series African by Legacy, Mexican by BirthLeapfrog (a bit of the Other) Grand Matron Army, and Archival Impulse.


Ayana Vellissia Jackson was born in Livingston, New Jersey and raised in East Orange, New Jersey where her family has long held residence. Her grandmother Angenetta Still Jackson, is a descendant of Leah Arthur Jones—a member of the founding family of New Jersey’s first Black Settlement, Lawnside, New Jersey. Her grandfather, J. Garfield Jackson, was Essex County’s first African American principal. The city of East Orange later named Jackson Academy elementary school after him. She traveled to Ghana in 2001, where she visited her family’s compound in North Odorkor. During this trip she produced her first photography series, “Full Circle: A Survey of Hip Hop in Ghana.”

Photographic career

Jackson initially studied sociology and photography during her undergraduate years at Spelman College. She continued her training while at the Berlin University of the Arts, and at a series of photography residencies including the Bakery Photographic Collective and Cité Internationale Universitaire de Paris, France.

Her photographic series “Full Circle: A Survey of Hip Hop in Ghana,” “Viajes Personales,” and “African by Legacy, Mexican by Birth” have been exhibited in association with Gallery MOMO (Johannesburg, RSA), Rush Arts Gallery (US), A Gathering of the Tribes (US), Galerie Peter Herrmann (Germany), Mexican Museum (US) the Franklin H. Williams CCC/African Diaspora Institute (US) and Culturesfrance (FR), the US State Department and the World Bank.

She has received grants from the Inter-American Foundation and Puma Creative; the latter supported her participation in the 2009 Bamako African Photography Biennial (Rencontres africaines de la photographie).

Her public art exhibitions include Round 32 of Project Row Houses (US) in Houston’s 3rd ward.

Her photography can be found in publications including the exhibition catalogue for her series “African by Legacy, Mexican by Birth, “Souls: A Critical Journal of Black Politics, Culture, and Society” (Columbia University), Camera Austria, and the New York Times blog called Lens. She has lectured and conducted workshops at university and arts institutions in the US, Colombia. Mexico, Venezuela, and Nicaragua. Ayana V. Jackson got grants from the Marguerite Casey Foundation, Inter American Foundation, US State Department, French Institute and New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA) Fellowship for photography.

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