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Vantage Point (work of art)

Artwork Info

Lorna Simpson
50 x 70 inches (127 x 177.8 centimeters)


Purchased with funds from the North Carolina Museum of Art Foundation, Art Trust Fund

Object Number

Key Ideas

  • Vantage Point explores themes of identity and race. The artist pairs a photo of herself (showing only the back of her head and upper body) with a photo of the inside of an African mask. The mask represents her African heritage. Together these images represent the cultural disconnection experienced by the artist and by many African American people.
  • The labels “inside” and “out” also call attention to the artist’s feelings about her heritage. Although Lorna Simpson was born and raised in America, she maintains a deep connection to her African ancestry. 
  • These photographs are gelatin silver prints, like most black-and-white photographs made in the 20th century. 

Learn More

Lorna Simpson’s work challenges society’s ideas about race, gender, identity, and culture. She is best known for her large-format photographs. Vantage Point pairs a photo of an African mask with a photo of the artist. These images represent Simpson’s heritage and her connection to (and separation from) the continent of Africa. She presents the two images out of context. The mask is shown only from the inside (and without the full masquerade costume that defines it and gives it its power), and the artist’s back is turned to the camera so that her self-portrait is faceless. The “inside” and “out” labels below the photos invite viewers to think about the relationship between heritage and lived experience.

The two photos in Vantage Point are gelatin silver prints, which are made up of silver metal particles suspended in a gelatin layer. The gelatin silver process has been the most common way to create black-and-white photographs since the 1890s.

Simpson gained popularity for her pairing of photography and text in the late 1980s and 1990s. She also creates artwork in a wide range of media, including painting, sculpture, collage, and film. 

Additional Resources

Resources for Teachers: 

  • Watch a video about Lorna Simpson and her work. 
  • Read an article about the history and process of gelatin silver printing. 
  • Watch a video about engaging students in conversations about the African diaspora.

Resources for Students:


  • An image of two black-and-white, side-by-side photographs. The first photo shows the inside of an African mask, labeled with the word “inside.” The second photo shows the back of a woman’s head and upper back. It is labeled with the word “out.”

    Vantage Point