“See­ing About Race” Before the Trees Was Strange
“Ed Drew, Pho­tog­ra­ph­er”

This short film offers a series of inter­wo­ven inter­views in which view­ers describe their reac­tions to and answer ques­tions about indi­vid­ual pho­tographs in the Mir­ror of Race project. Inter­vie­wees are encour­aged to inter­pret the images and to con­struct sto­ries about their mean­ing. The sto­ries they tell serve as a mir­ror to reflect back to them­selves their thoughts and feel­ings about the “oth­er,” both his­tor­i­cal­ly and now, as they expe­ri­ence the oth­er today. 

How do we under­stand and change our feel­ings regard­ing the oth­er in our his­to­ry, in our pri­vate lives, and in our com­mu­ni­ty? Before we can over­come the divi­sions engen­dered by the per­cep­tion of dif­fer­ence, we have to under­stand and accept how we make sense of how we per­ceive oth­ers and, at the same time, our­selves. 

Fur­ther videos will include a num­ber of inter­views, dis­cus­sions, and per­for­mance pieces that begin as med­i­ta­tions on spe­cif­ic images and that evolve to chal­lenge the audi­ence to reflect upon its own ways of see­ing and inter­pret­ing the oth­er.

Even­tu­al­ly, we plan to have video com­men­tary on each of the images in the online exhi­bi­tion, as well as a com­pi­la­tion of inter­views in “See­ing about Race” as a uni­tary film.
Derek Bur­rows, August 2009

In 1974 Derek arrived into Boston to find a racial­ly charged cli­mate, bus­ing was at its height, racial ten­sions high. Com­ing from The Bahamas where the social con­struct of race called him white, Derek was able to nav­i­gate though a myr­i­ad of cul­tur­al and racial groups while explor­ing what white­ness meant to him.

Grow­ing up in The Bahamas, he was white but nev­er felt that term a part of who he was. On arriv­ing into Boston to go to Berklee Col­lege of Music, he dis­cov­ered that there race didn’t mat­ter.

The film “Before the Trees Was Strange” uses inter­views with fam­i­ly mem­bers, experts from the Bahamas as well as inter­views of experts on race and genet­ics from Amer­i­ca to tell the sto­ry of Derek’s immi­grant expe­ri­ence to Amer­i­ca, his explo­ration of his own racial iden­ti­ty and his dis­cov­ery though genet­ic test­ing that changed com­plete­ly the way the fam­i­ly thinks about them­selves.

Using archival footage, old fam­i­ly footage and cur­rent day images, Derek, a mas­ter sto­ry­teller, weaves togeth­er a tale of intrigue as he takes us on a jour­ney allow­ing us to ask, “What is race and does it exist and why does it mat­ter?”

Ed Drew grew up in Brook­lyn, New York City and joined the mil­i­tary a month after his com­ple­tion of high school. He spent the next 6 years in the active duty Air Force, from 1999 to 2005, as a jet engine mechan­ic.

His tour of duty began in Lit­tle Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas, and in 2001 he was reas­signed to Yoko­ta Air Base near Tokyo, Japan until the end of his enlist­ment. It was while in Japan he dis­cov­ered his pas­sion for art and an artis­tic aes­thet­ic derived from the Japan­ese culture.After leav­ing Japan and active duty, he relo­cat­ed to Ger­many where he lived for 3 years.

He trav­elled across much of West­ern Europe and parts of East­ern Europe, fur­ther devel­op­ing his artis­tic style. In the sum­mer of 2008 Ed final­ly returned to Amer­i­ca, after a 7 year absence, and, short­ly there­after, enlist­ed in the Air Nation­al Guard.Ed Drew cur­rent­ly lives in the San Fran­cis­co Bay Area, where he attends San Fran­cis­co Art Insti­tute full time, pur­su­ing a BFA in Sculp­ture with a minor in Pho­tog­ra­phy, study­ing under pho­tog­ra­ph­er Lin­da Con­nor and sculp­tor John Roloff.

More about Ed Drew