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Through Photography, Dana Mueller, Art + Design, Ties Together Everyday Lives, Identities, and Cultural and Political Influences

Photo by Dana Mueller, MAY DAYS.

Northeastern faculty member Dana Mueller, Assistant Teaching Professor in CAMD’s Department of Art + Design, is a visual artist and educator whose photographs are encounters with people and environments that engage both familiar and foreign realms. Her work has been extensively exhibited, and she has won several awards that recognize her unique and thoughtful approach. Much of her work explores the relationship between everyday lives, individual and collective identities, and cultural and political influences – and how they all weave together. This theme is the foundation of her most recent monograph MAY DAYS, published by Fraction Editions in 2018, which serves as a visual record of her time in Havana, Cuba.

Dana Mueller, Assistant Teaching Professor. Photo by Billie Weiss.

Professor Mueller co-taught with Northeastern faculty Luis Brens at the Centro de Estudios Martianos (Center for the Studies of José Martí), based in Havana in 2014 and 2015. During her time there, she had the opportunity to meet Cuban friends and colleagues who shared their perspectives and their culture with her. It was Professor Mueller’s goal to go beyond her own understanding of Cuba as a foreigner and explore what lies beneath a frequently-misinterpreted surface.

“One day I was asked to give a talk at one of the city’s cultural centers and met a curator,” said Professor Mueller. “Our discussions lead to a dinner and then a visit to his home where he lived with his mother and grandmother (there is a photograph of his grandmother in MAY DAYS).  This time with them was a poignant moment for me, not only seeing how people live, but also how they accommodate to a life with the bare essentials, how they find ways of still enjoying life in difficult circumstances. Although I grew up in the former East Germany, it was important to me not to see things through the filter of socialism and economic hardship – albeit only too apparent – but through social and human engagement that was serendipitous and open.” 

Photo by Dana Mueller, MAY DAYS.

MAY DAYS was recently purchased by the Northeastern University Library’s Artists’ Books Collection, which is housed in the Northeastern University Archives and Special Collections on the lower level of Snell Library. The Artists’ Books Collection is a teaching collection of artists’ books that showcases examples of a variety of formats, techniques, and subjects central to an understanding of the book arts.

“Artists’ books invite active engagement and questions about what makes a book a book and art, art. Dana Mueller’s photobook is a great example of this genre because she has taken such care with designing an experience of her photograph series that uses layout, fold-outs, and sequence to help tell her narrative,” described Regina Pagani, Northeastern University’s Arts, Humanities, and Experiential Learning Librarian. “While her work will appeal to all, it will especially resonate with photography students who are thinking critically about how to shape and share a body of work. The pedagogical opportunities for this and the other artists’ books are quite exciting.”

While Professor Mueller has taught at Northeastern for eight years as an Adjunct Professor of Photography, this fall, we are excited to welcome her as an Assistant Teaching Professor in CAMD. She has served as the faculty leader for Northeastern’s Dialogue of Civilizations (DOC) to Berlin (Photography and Design in a German Cultural Context) since 2016, and her work relates to the CAMD-focused DOC, Cuba Y La Fotografía, led by Media Arts faculty member Luis Brens. Professor Mueller was born and raised in Thuringia, East Germany; her return to her homeland is another major theme of her work. She received her MFA in Photography from the Massachusetts College of Art + Design.