The Luminous Landscape Grant

Submission Info

On the Yard

Shawnre Tieuel - TX, United States

A short-form photo story representing both overt and underlying tension on the University of Texas campus. The chronology includes stories that originally took place over decades (1970s- 2010s). This piece will combine all events into a short period one year for dramatic affect. Photos are interwoven throughout and will read like a historical coffee table book. Reenactment photo shoots (MLK and Malcolm X), former student interviews, and monument/landscape photos will complete my story.

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WHAT- I was born with a condition called “nosey”. It leaves me with a fascination for finding as much documentation and documentary film about Martin Luther King, John F. Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, Malcolm X, and 9/11 as I can find. Those moments are both good and bad. Good, because they sparked times of unity for spiritual and moral support. Bad, each person/event was led to tragedy on global scales. The subject of my project involves the monument of trailblazer Martin Luther King and leads to UT students of my generation.

My production is a short-form written story and a documentary accompaniment that represent times of overt and underlying tension on the University of Texas campus. The chronology includes stories that originally took place over decades 1970s to 2010s. Those decades will be fictionally crammed into one year for dramatic effect. Photos (color and b/w) are interwoven throughout my piece and will read like a historical coffee table storybook. My readers will gain perspective on the social climate and view campus monuments. Photos will also include reenactments (MLK and Malcolm X) and photos of Longhorn Heisman Trophy Statues.

WHY- The MLK Stature project originated from my first visit to the statue located just east of central university campus. Each student in 1997 and 1998 involuntarily contributed a few dollars to the creation of this historical monument (supposedly no more than 3 MLK statues appear on college campuses). However, it took me 19 years to gather the nerve to see it in person. Why? It was anger and disappointment. Within months it was defaced with eggs and more. Rather than risk being upset, I stayed away. I stand by the decision because seeing the statue now still produces strong feelings inside of me. The size, likeness, and mood surrounding it are amazing. I want to protect it. Memories of tense situations on campus and my personal bouts come to mind. I began to research issues campus that I wasn’t familiar with and it encouraged dialogue with several others that attended UT. They include speakers, lawyers, and government employees. At the time, we had our eyes on graduating and finding good jobs. Now that we’ve experienced campus after-life, it’s interesting to hear the perspectives on all of the events mentioned. It was especially shocking to hear the sculptors (Varillas, a mixed race marriage) discuss how perpetrators broke into their office and totally demolished the MLK statue once it was 90% finished in Chicago. The sculptors are white and of Asian descent. It was clearly not a case that only affected people of color.

After viewing the MLK statue, I focused on the UT tower and the engravings on it “Ye shall know the truth, the truth shall set you free.” I saw the tower nearly every day for five years and I never noticed those words. They fit a recurring theme at the forefront of society today “liberty and justice for all”. In the shadows of the tower rested 6 statues. Four of them were removed (August 2017) from the campus due to their ties to the confederacy. The length of a football field separates those words of freedom and monuments of celebrated segregationists. On this day, all of these things hit me on top of my head. It reminded me of black face Halloween parties, orders to “Go Back to Africa” falsely constructed by African American students to mimic racial hostility, and a professor who less than eloquently stated that black students didn’t have the same ability to reason as others. I want the photos represented in this document to evoke emotion and to start dialogue among students, faculty, and the public.

BACKGROUND- I’m a 1998 UT grad in Mathematics. Although I wasn’t sure how I would achieve it, my interest was to test various products once I graduated. My journey was really different than I hoped. On September 11, 2001, my views on success changed drastically and I eventually focused on writing narratives and documentaries. I fell in love with cameras and interviews before deciding to explore and create stories as a filmmaker. Years later, I realized that I always liked taking photos. And just a few years ago, I found out that my grandmother who raised me until I was 8 years old was a photographer in our small hometown Lufkin, TX. My draw to the arts makes more sense now sinse I lost the desire to remain in corporate America years before. Now, I aim at producing 3 feature films per year and teaching students the basic aspects of filmmaking, photography, and creative writing.

FUND USAGE- A small portion of funds will be used for travel to Chicago to meet with the MLK statue sculptors. The majority of the funds will pay for my time to shoot stills and interview subjects.

"On the Yard" is a reference to the 40 acres that UT is built on. Ex. Students danced on the yard.



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