Amani Willett | A Parallel Road -Ep.127

"In classes it was always, oh the road represents ultimate freedom, exuberance, the American dream…I just kept thinking, wait a minute, this doesn’t line up for me."

For nearly a century, the American road trip has been closely associated with the American dream. The open road is where millions of Americans freely set out to explore the country’s beauty, epic landscapes, and diversity of cultures. For a country that claims to be a free and democratic land without roadblocks, the road trip has been and continues to be a fraught endeavor for Black people.

With this project, Willett exposes the cracks of this ideal version of American society, pointing out that historically the road represents a collective site of trauma for the Black community.

Amani Willett is a Brooklyn and Boston-based photographer whose practice is driven by conceptual ideas surrounding family, history, memory, and the social environment. Working primarily with the book form, his two monographs have been published to widespread critical acclaim. Both books, Disquiet (Damiani, 2013) and The Disappearance of Joseph Plummer (Overlapse, 2017), were selected by Photo-Eye as “best books” of the year and have been highlighted in over 50 publications including Photograph Magazine, PDN, Hyperallergic, Lensculture, New York Magazine and 1000 Words and recommended by Todd Hido, Elisabeth Biondi (former Visuals Editor of The New Yorker), Vince Aletti and Joerg Colberg (Conscientious), among others.

Amani’s photographs are also featured in the books Bystander: A History of Street Photography (2017 edition, Laurence King Publishing), Street Photography Now (Thames and Hudson), New York: In Color (Abrams), and have been published widely in places including American Photography, Newsweek, Harper’s, The Huffington Post, The New York Times, The New York Times Magazine and The New York Review of Books. His work resides in the collections of the Tate Modern, The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, The Sir Elton John Photography Collection, The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Oxford University, and Harvard University, among others.

Amani completed an MFA in Photography, Video and Related Media from the School of Visual Arts, NY in 2012 and a BA from Wesleyan University in 1997.

In addition to his artistic practice, Amani is an Assistant Professor of Photography at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design in Boston.

This episode is sponsored by the Charcoal Book Club, a monthly subscription service for photobook enthusiasts. Working with the most respected names in contemporary photography, Charcoal selects and delivers essential photobooks to a worldwide community of collectors. Each month, members receive a signed, first-edition monograph and an exclusive print to add to their collections.