According to the Black Portriature website, "The conference will explore the making of visual archives, the narratives they tell, and the parameters that define them as objects of study. As visual collections, photographic archives present specific concerns — especially as digital technologies change the way knowledge is classified, stored, retrieved and disseminated.

Students and attendees were asked to consider these questions:

  • How does the gaze visualize and influence the control of historical narratives?
  • What icons dominate the visual culture of slavery and its archives?
  • How do other artistic narratives encode memory, violence, and subjectivities?
  • What is the future of the archive and how does it provide fodder for social change or artistic innovation?
  • How do social and economic histories as well as experiences of race, class, gender and sexuality affect the construction, acquisition and maintenance of archives of the African Diaspora?

They were also asked to "draw attention to historical landmarks and moments that act as anniversaries of the arrival of Africans in the New World."