Please join us in welcoming the incoming Class of 2020 cohort of Duke University’s MFA in Experimental and Documentary Arts.
Fati Abubakar is a documentary photographer, photojournalist, and public health worker from Nigeria, born and raised in Maiduguri, Borno State. She has a Bachelors degree in Nursing and a Masters degree in Public Health. She focuses on health perspectives, using photography as a medium to highlight the problems at community level, specializing in documenting cities and towns and highlighting the positives and negatives of each. She also has an interest in documenting cultures, conflict, urban poverty, rural development and humanitarian issues. Fati has a special interest in counter-narratives for underrepresented communities. In 2015, she embarked on a personal project to showcase her hometown of Borno State at the time of Bokoharam. A project titled “Bits of Borno” has gained critical acclaim and has been published in media outlets including The New York Times, BBC, Reuters, CNN, Voice of America, Newsweek Europe, the Africa is a Country blog, and Nigerian newspapers such as ThisDay and the Blueprint. She has been commissioned to work with UNICEF, International Alert, Action Aid and more.
Michael Betts II
Michael Anthony Betts, II is a native North Carolinian who is passionately fascinated by the story of the world around him. Be it the music of a place, the sounds of a known or new environment, or the tales of another’s tragedy or triumph; Michael wants to hear it, experience it, and recreate it aurally for others the world over. Graduating from UNC-Chapel Hill in 2011 with a BA in Communications focused in media studies, he has most notably worked as a Sound Designer for many North Carolina regional theater companies and provided exhibition audio for Hidden Voice’s None of the Above and Serving Life: Revisioning Justice. Several of his current projects include bringing back Mike Wiley Productions’ Podcast Parallel Lives for another season, Rob Hamilton’s The Misdirection of Henry Walker, and a Duke/UNC joint endeavor with UNC professor Miguel La Serna surrounding the geopolitical armed conflicts of Peru.
Jing Cai was born in 1995 and raised in Fuzhou, China. She studied communication and minor in social entrepreneurship at Northeastern University. Her previous documentary work examines the idea of identity and social issues affecting young adults who are from relatively low socio-economic backgrounds in China.
Cici Cheng is a Chinese-American photographer and artist who grew up in North Carolina. She received her Bachelor of Fine Arts in Photography and Media from California Institute of the Arts, where she made work that was focused on the cultural transition of her family. Cici has been teaching for the Community Arts Partnership, where she instructs high school students from Los Angeles County in the arts and aspects of analog photography in their Fiat Lux program. Cici wants to continue exploring how locations define our identities in her work.
Born in 1992, Jonghwan Choi was raised in Seoul, South Korea. He received his BA in Theater and Film from Hanyang University in Seoul. Covering many visual methodologies, he is a visual storyteller who has written and directed four short narrative films and participated in award-winning independent films. Lately, as a research on human expression, Jonghwan’s interest in contemporary media is focused on documentary film. With the strong belief that a story can make a change in society, he develops his ideas through experiencing or investigating unfamiliar circumstances and putting them into familiar art forms.
Lauren Henschel graduated from Duke University with a BA in Visual Media Studies, a certificate in Documentary Film, and a minor in Cultural Anthropology. She is a passionate documentary artist with holistic cinematographic skills accentuated by her ability to portray stories in an empathetic way. Upon graduating, Lauren utilized the skills she honed at Duke to launch her own documentary production company, and received grants that facilitated the production of her first feature-length film about the impact of immigration on families in Peru. Her work has been displayed at Carnegie Hall, the Miami Art Museum and in Duke Magazine, to name a few. More recently, Lauren moved to New York via the Lewis Hine Documentary Fellows Program, which partners filmmakers with non-profits. Her Hine placement is with the Red Hook Community Justice Center, an organization at the forefront of alternatives to the criminal justice system.
Cassandra Klos (b. 1991) was born and raised in wood of New Hampshire. She earned her Bachelor of Fine Arts in 2014 from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston at Tufts University. Her projects focus on manipulating the validity of photography and creating dual realities that breathe life into situations where visual manifestations may not be available. Her photographs have been featured in group exhibitions across the United States and international festivals, as well as in several solo exhibitions in Massachusetts. Her photojournalism reporting has been published in TIME Magazine, Wired, and National Geographic. She is a Critical Mass finalist, and has recently finished her tenure as artist-in-residence at the Mars Desert Research Station in Hanksville, Utah.
Zaire McPhearson is a multimedia artist from the Queen City of Charlotte, North Carolina. She works across various mediums, focusing mostly on photography, video, digital media, and drawing. Her work has developed into a means of emphasizing political, racial, and religious issues through a personal perspective. It takes a view of not only the social but also cultural aspect of society. Her recent work, Black Butterfly, is a series of digital images and sculptural works that displays the different stages of life that exist for a butterfly, symbolically exploring how Black culture has been altered to portray different messages throughout history: movements, rebirths, and peaks of black culture recurring over time. Zaire received her Bachelor’s of Arts in Digital Media with a minor in Biology from South Carolina State University in 2018.
Alex Morelli is a filmmaker, photographer, and educator from Stamford, CT. After earning his BA in Visual and Environmental Studies from Harvard, he worked in production at HBO Documentaries and as a freelance shooter and editor. For the past three years he has taught nonfiction film and video alongside Ross McElwee and Alfred Guzzetti. His practice draws from personal documentary, cinéma vérité, and experimental film traditions, with particular attention to marginalized characters and communities. You can lure him to almost any screening with the promise of a film print.
Hoang Nguyen’s works have been exclusively photographic. Since a young age, Hoang has had an eye for other people’s lives, especially their struggles. It is there that he finds the essence of being human as he witnesses both the pain of others and the strength they are capable of. When he acquired a camera in 2011, his vision found an outlet. What were earlier very fleeting observations soon became archivable within either gelatin strips or digital binaries. Every picture thus became his mementos. The more people he meets and the more feelings he experiences, the more he responds by taking pictures. By shooting and collecting those pictures, he preserves himself. Through those pictures, he sees into his own self. For that reason, photography has since then become his way of seeing, thinking and living.
Born and raised in Phoenix Arizona, Bishop Romero Ortega received a BA from Arizona State University in Film Making Practices. Through the medium of documentary film making he seeks to explore the idea of “Invisible People” in society while sharing and discovering his own voice with the viewer.
Alanna Styer, born and raised in Saint Louis, Missouri, moved to Nashville where she studied photography at Watkins College of Art, Design and Film. There she spent her final year of undergrad traveling across the United States to document sites where people of color were killed by police officers. She also collaborated with men on death row at the Riverbend Maximum Security Institute for three years. She earned her BFA in December 2015 before moving to California. Her artwork draws from these experiences and focuses on human rights, education and culture.
Iliana Sun was born in 1996 in a small town in China. She ventured into a strange new world for undergraduate studies at Duke University. Her main focus is on the integration between conservation biology and documentary studies. For the past two years she has been working on photographing animals in captivity across continents.
Will Warasila grew up in Chapel Hill, NC, but has spent the last several years in working as a freelance photographer in New York City. Will received his BFA in Photography from the School of Visual Art in 2015. Increasingly, he has found his subjects outside of the urban landscape. Recent projects include photos of metalyard workers in Srinagar , Kashmir, fishermen off the coast of South-west Sri Lanka, and weekend dirt track stockcars in upstate New York.
Mao Wei is a multimedia artist based in Shanghai and Chicago. After receiving a BA of Journalism in 2015, she attended the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, focusing on photography. Following an academic background in journalism and communication, Mao’s artwork creates realms that explore mediation and representation in the real world, and critiques the functions of various media production approaches through photography, sculpture, lighting installation and mixed media. These works reflect on mass media, virtual reality, fantasy, and uncertainty. She is also a former art teacher at Power Station of Art in Shanghai, and her works have exhibited internationally including the US, China, and Japan. More recently, Mao is participating in an art residency program in Tokyo, examing dialogues and objects as they relate to memory and longing.