AJ Bernstein

 

Biography

Sherer was born in Alabama in 1957 and following a transient, international childhood as a military brat, she returned to Alabama in the 1980s to earn undergraduate and graduate degrees. While a young practicing physical therapist she became interested in photography, and studied with Judith Dater, Rodney Smith, Karen Kuehn, and Mary Ellen Mark. After juggling dual careers as professional photographer and physical therapist educator she left the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) to focus on the pursuit of photographic interests.

She has explored archetypal images of southern adolescents (Jr. Matriarchs of the South), portraits of people with disabilities and chronic illness as tools for social advocacy (Just As I Am: Portraits of Americans with Disabilities and Positively Living: Portrait of People with HIV), narratives informed by old master paintings (Living Color), and a series of images created in response to intimate family experiences during the Iraq war (War Stories).

Her most recent work began in 2011 at the cusp of the southern LGBTQ human rights movement. Departing from her trademark environmental portraits, her conceptual approach shifted to stark studio shots to protect her collaborators whose participation at the time literally put jobs, child custody, and family acceptance at risk. Symbolically, many families choose to turn their backs to the camera as passive resistance to their situation.  Living in Limbo: Lesbian Families in the Deep South (2012) and Family Matters (2014) both opened at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute to record breaking crowds, in a city ready for the conversation about equality that the art sparked.  A Living in Limbo participant invited Sherer to photograph of the annual ball of the African American sorority, Phi Nu Kappa and fraternity Alpha Psi Kappa— Sapphic Dance documented this thriving subculture celebrating fluid gender identity.

Sherer’s images have been featured in numerous museum exhibitions of photography and contemporary art including those at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery (2016), Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts (2016), Birmingham Civil Rights Institute (solo, 1995, 2012, 2014), Birmingham Museum of Art (1996, 2007, 2011,), Wiregrass Museum of Art (2006), Mobile Museum of Art (2010), Montgomery Museum of Art ( and Huntsville Museum of Art (2005, 2007, 2012, 2013). Her work is represented in the permanent collection of the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art, Birmingham Museum of Art (Birmingham, AL), Wiregrass Museum of Art (Dothan, AL),  and Birmingham Civil Rights Institute

Editorial work has included assignments for People Magazine, Oxford American, and Impact Visuals (an agency dedicated to social documentary photography.) A book of Sherer's images, Just As I Am Americans With Disabilities, won a first place IPPY (National Independent Book Publishers Award), and the Gustavus Myers Outstanding Book award from Boston University. Photographs from the book also received awards from the World Health Organization and were included in European photography exhibits sponsored by the group.

Other awards have included the Alabama State Council for the Arts Individual Fellowship, the Southern Artistry and the Aronov Awards. She was invited for a series of conferences/cultural exchanges in multiple Japanese cities as the guest of Tanpopo-No-Ye and The International Society for the Arts in Healthcare, and has been a guest lecturer on numerous occasions in the United States.

The artist’s prints are available for sale in limited editions, and she occasionally accepts commissions for fine art portraits. 

Sherer's resume is available as a PDF upload