Associate Professor of Art Tanya Sheehan coauthored the latest installment in the Smithsonian’s “Double Exposure” book series. Pictures with Purpose: Early African American Photography (2019) examines photographs from the National Museum of African American History and Culture. Sheehan’s contribution to the book focuses on vernacular, or everyday, photos and what they can tell us about the African-American experience before and after Emancipation. Through case studies from the museum, she outlines the many motivations that shaped the creation, dissemination, and consumption of such images. While most aimed to preserve likenesses and memories, honor individuals, and uplift the Black race, others reinforced racial stereotypes and challenged Black agency.

The book has been reviewed by the Wall Street Journal and at Buzzfeed, among others.