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Mom Were OK, Mississippi Gulf Coast, Mid September, 2005 © Copyright of Zoe Strauss

STRAUSS AT HAVERFORD

If you’re in the Philly area and you’ve got any sense, you’ll be making your way to Haverford College tomorrow for the opening of Sea Change, by Zoe Strauss.

Strauss will be there too. Talking and everything.

Friday, January 23rd.

Do it.

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Drying Money, Mississippi Gulf Coast, Mid September, 2005 © Copyright of Zoe Strauss

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TV on Second Floor, Mississippi Gulf Coast, Mid September, 2005 © Copyright of Zoe Strauss

Strauss

This is my hometown, Toms River, NJ, 2012. © Zoe Strauss.

PRESS BLURB

In Sea Change, Strauss traces the landscape of post-climate change America. In photographs, vinyl prints, and projected images, Strauss treads the extended aftermath of three ecological disasters: Hurricane Katrina in the Mississippi Gulf Coast (2005); the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill in Southern Louisiana (2010); and Hurricane Sandy in Toms River, NJ, and Staten Island, NY (2012). Lush and leveled landscapes; graffiti pleas and words of encouragement—Strauss’s camera captures lives decimated and dusting off: the fast and slow tragedies of global warming, the damage we can repair, and the damage we can’t.

THOUGHTS

I had no idea Strauss was working on a survey of disasterscapes in America. Following her 10 years of photographing in Philadelphia and celebrating the colours and characters of her beloved home city — and then presenting her photographs annually beneath Interstate 95 — it makes sense that Strauss would gravitate to the realest of struggles for real people at a time when real (climate) change is unleashing real events.

Sandy, Katrina and the Deepwater Horizon catastrophes left millions of Americans floundering, thousands dead, communities torn from the ground. In the immediate aftermath of such events, attention focuses on the official and governmental responses, but Strauss is more interested in the long tail of disasters and of informal vernacular responses. Strauss seems hell-bent on reminding us that after the camera crews leave, there’s still generations of rebuilding to be done (especially ecologically).

In Sea Change we see Strauss’ usual dark humor and restless documentation of the frayed edges of our nation. She’s holding up a mirror to the inconvenient messiness that we like to think we can deal with quickly and efficiently, but Strauss’ world is in a state of constant entropy, and it’s the invisible, the workers, the poor, the animal kingdom and the dissenters that lose out most when the shit hits the fan.

We all know that we’ve permanently altered our planet’s climate systems; we all know we’re on the hook. But we also know we can look anywhere-else, any time we want. And we know we don’t have to live on the Gulf Coast, or in the path of hurricanes. And we know that when things go south, we can turn our heads to the news and make a distant appraisal about whether the clean-up is happening quick enough or not, or watch some talking heads, or wag our finger at some government official.

Strauss’ victory in all her work — and particularly in Sea Change — is that she marries the visuals in her inquiries and her work so that they sync with her experience of the world. She is keeping herself honest through her photography. Perhaps Strauss can keep us honest too?

Foundational to Strauss’ work too is a deep respect. Zoe is irreverent, for sure, but she is also respectful of people. Entropy is going to happen; change is constant. People are going to win and people are going to lose, amidst change. That’s life. The degree to which people’s fortunes differ … and the degree to which people win and lose … and the degrees to which those statuses are kept permanent, that’s not just “life” though. It’s for us to decide how disaster will effect our collective in the long term. It’s for us to decide on the most equitable distribution of resources when many have literally been swept away.

When people fall down, we help them up. Rebuilding is everyone’s business. In Strauss’ world, love is the response to entropy and its disruptions.

NUMBERS

Running: January 23–March 6, 2015

Reception and opening talk with the artist: Friday, January 23, 4:30–7:30pm

PAPER

The exhibition is accompanied by a publication designed by Random Embassy, Philadelphia, featuring essays by artist Zoe Strauss; The New Yorker contributing writer Mattathias Schwartz; Helen K. White, PhD, Assistant Professor of Chemistry at Haverford College; and a poem by Thomas Devaney, MFA, PEW Fellow and Visiting Assistant Professor of Poetry, Haverford College.

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Oiled Water Coming Inland, Waveland, Mississippi, Early July, 2010 © Copyright of Zoe Strauss

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Billboard, Mississippi Gulf Coast, Mid September, 2005 © Copyright of Zoe Strauss

Strauss, Zoe - We'll Be Back

We’ll Be Back, Mississippi Gulf Coast, Mid September, 2005 © Copyright of Zoe Strauss

ANY QUESTIONS?

Contact (my mate) Matthew Seamus Callinan, Associate Director, Cantor Fitzgerald Gallery and Campus Exhibitions

mcallina@haverford.edu

Cantor Fitzgerald Gallery, Haverford College, 370 Lancaster Avenue, Haverford, PA 19041

Tel: 610 896 1287

Go see it.

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Don’t Forget Us, Mississippi Gulf Coast, July 2010 © Copyright of Zoe Strauss

A prisoner at the Estrella Jail, Phoenix, Arizona makes a face before he is photographed. © Scott Houston

Friend of the blog, Scott Houston, has a spangly new website featuring not one but four portfolios of his work from Maricopa County, “Tent City” and the show that is Sheriff Arpaio’s chain gangs.

Scott is a New York resident and like most with a camera got out to photograph the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. He sent me some images. I’ve had my own thoughts on the photo coverage of Sandy, so I’ve tried to select an edit here that shows some things other photographs have not – namely Con Ed workers, different-enough compositions and laughter (click any image to see it larger.)

CON ED, MANHATTAN

NEW DORP BEACH, STATEN ISLAND

BREEZY POINT, QUEENS

Photo: Timothy Briner, from It’s A Helluva Town, in Businessweek.

THE BEST SHOT

Timothy Briner is doing the most different stuff. Whether being different will distinguish it from the crowd, we’ll see.

I was disappointed with early coverage of the Hurricane. Given the superstorm conditions photographers were getting many more misses than hits.

The biggest miss was TIME’s first dispatch of Instagram images the day after Sandy hit. Only Michael Christopher Brown of the five photographers  – Kashi, Quilty, Lowy, Wilkes and Brown – had some successful frames. TIME has continued adding to its gallery of Sandy images so the older photos (31 – 57) are toward the end.

Photo: Michael Christopher Brown/TIME. Con Edison workers clean a manhole on 7th Avenue and 22nd Street in Manhattan. Source

BUT, photographers were not at fault. It was editors’ mistakes to publish below par images. Half of the photographers images I saw in the first 36 hours were from assigned photographers carrying smartphones. In low light, blustery weather the smartphones fell way short of the test.

THE MONEY SHOT

Kenneth Jarecke lays into TIME for their use of Instagram photos. Okay he references Gene Smith where there is perhaps little relevance and lists all sorts of other reasons such as Instagram getting rich of millions off other peoples’ content, but those are not the core of his burning anger. Jarecke is angry because the pictures are poor, and I can’t disagree with him. Of TIME, Jarecke says:

It’s shameful and you should be embarrassed. Not to say these shots weren’t well seen (which is the hardest part), just that they were poorly executed. Which is to say they fail as photographs.

What was weird was that in a Forbes article largely defending TIME mag’s use of Instagram images there was little discussion of the images qualities, more an emphasis on stats and page views.

Time’s photography blog, was “one of the most popular galleries we’ve ever done,” says [Photo Editor, Kira] Pollack, and it was responsible for 13% of all the site’s traffic during a week when Time.com had its fourth-biggest day ever. Time’s Instagram account attracted 12,000 new followers during a 48-hour period.

Pollack’s description of Lowy’s bland, color-field image of a wave chosen for the print magazine’s front cover as “painterly” due to its low res sums it all up; the TIME cover is known to favor photo-illustrations over straight photographs.

THE CHEAP SHOT

Sometimes articles are written as if it is still some surprise that amateur photographs shape our media and consciousness. American Photo describes the lifecycle of a viral photo.

Photo: Nick Cope. Rising flood waters as seen from the window of his Red Hook, Brooklyn apartment.

When we’re all hungry for information and we’re all sharing everything we can get a peek at then an amateur snap, if it is informative enough, will find it’s way to us very quickly.

I admire that American Photo quoted fully from this dude who got that photo.

“It was hard to track [the photo’s path to “viral”] — I was also preparing for a hurricane at the time! And for a good part of the morning I was at a cafe in the neighborhood, chatting with the owner who was mixing up Bloody Marys, and so it was a combination of hanging out with folks in the neighborhood and getting prepared for the storm. And then I start getting all these calls.”

THE TRUSTED SHOT

As ever, Damon Winter makes a bloody good fist of it for the New York Times.

The BIG Atlantic In Focus delivers with a typically epic selection off the wires. Crushed cars, boats on boats, burnt embers, friends hugging/crying, aerial shots of devastation, gas lines, strewn debris (homes), rescued old english sheepdog, destroyed pier and amusement rides, phones charging, pitch black streets, canoe in a living room, downed bridge and then this incredible picture by Seth Wenig of food being dumped.

Men dispose of shopping carts full of food damaged by Hurricane Sandy at the Fairway supermarket in the Red Hook section of Brooklyn in New York, on October 31, 2012. The food was contaminated by flood waters that rose to approximately four feet in the store during the storm. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

THE HORROR SHOT

Gilles Peress‘ very personal letter in which he appears to be having a breakdown is shared with the world.

“I have to say that in twelve years, to have shot pictures at 9/11 downtown, and again downtown in 2008 when the financial system collapsed, and now, is intense: big city, big tragedies, and a sense of having entered into a different period of history.”

I really want to know who CK and GH, the letters recipients, are.

Peress talks about homelessness and the poor being forgotten in the delivery of aid and services. Michael Shaw at BagNewsNotes wrote about the homeless being forgotten in the coverage.

Back to In Focus. Today, another good edit by Alan Taylor’s team. These two images stood out.

John De Guzman photographs a massive pile of mucky, busted furniture and appliances.

Photo: John De Guzman. A street lined with water-damaged debris in Staten Island.

John Minchillo photographed a lady who is better camouflaged than the national guardsmen beside her. I wonder what she bought at Whole Foods?

Photo: AP Photo/John Minchillo. A woman passes a group of National Guardsmen as they march up 1st Avenue towards the 69th Regiment Armory, on November 3, 2012, in New York. National Guardsmen remain in Manhattan as the city begins to move towards normalcy following Superstorm Sandy earlier in the week.

THE EVERYTHING SHOT

Everybody’s been very excited about the New York Magazine’s cover aerial photograph of a lightless Lower Manhattan.

It’s only fitting to finish these thoughts with a nod to two perhaps lesser feted Instagram photographers – after all, Instagram had record number of hashtaggles for #Sandy #HurricaneSandy and #Frankenstorm.

Wyatt Gallery has been following clean-up closely.

Clayton Cubitt is a bit more wry in his approach including this GSV comparison which is typical of Cubitt’s sideways thinking on most things visual. Good stuff.

Photo: Clayton Cubitt. Posted on Instagram, “One day you’re living the American dream. The next…”

EMAIL

prisonphotography [at] gmail [dot] com

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