All human landscape has cultural meaning. Because we rarely consider our constructions as evidence of our priorities, beliefs and desires, the testimony our landscape tells is perhaps more honest than anything we might intentionally present. Our built environment is society's autobiography writ large. Ghosts of Segregation photographically explores America's racism as seen in the vernacular landscape: Schools for "colored" children, theatre entrances and restrooms for "colored people," lynching sites, juke joints, jails, hotels and bus stations. Past is prologue. Segregation is as much current events as it is history. These ghosts haunt us because they are very much alive.
"These portraits of the Earth's surface were made during extended periods of solitude while in various states of being lost, cold, hungry or sleep-deprived. Having been stripped of basic human comforts, I'm forced to confront the staggering indifference of the forces that have shaped our existence. In this exhaustion, there's a moment of surrender to the unforgiving and unknowable. When isolated in an unfamiliar terrain, there's a calmness that settles over me and I'm only allowed to observe as my internal experience becomes entangled with the external topology. These photographs are an attempt to capture a surreal and occasionally confusing glimpse at the subtleties of enormity."
I check the encyclopedias I used to study and the absence of women seems evident in both its content and its editing. Backdrop highlights this lack, re-photographing the woman who appears in the encyclopedia by chance, as someone who walked by unexpectedly at the time of the shoot, without the photographer’s intentional gaze, and without her knowing being looked at. The images that I take rescue her from that second plane and place her as the main character, and at the same time present her without the conditioning of the gaze that recorded them, accidentally and without observing them.
This year’s Curator’s Choice awards were notable for their unique pursuit of issues related to citizenship and belonging, gender, place, historical memory, ecology and sustainability. They looked closely at the immediate world around them and the people in it. In the lives of their mothers, or even in the interiors of cars, they illuminated a profound and mundane significance. Vivid, poignant, surprising, brave, and critical – from a story of culture and migration through teenagers living in New Mexico to a retracing of aviation pioneer Amelia Earhart’s ill-fated flight around the globe to documents of a dwindling plant species, what united the submissions was impeccable technical execution through a variety of approaches including camera-less images, tintypes, studio-based images, and panoramas. The submissions introduce new vantage points through which to rediscover everything from our planet to the graphic beauty of paper torn from surfaces on the streets of Paris. The strongest submissions were innovative, well edited, focused and cohesive projects that successfully utilized the images as carriers of meaning as opposed to relying heavily on technical flourishes, descriptive texts and captions. What is unforgettable, finally, is the resounding commitment to photography as a tool for connection.
Frishman’s investigation reminds us of the histories that survive in the built environment – of the bone beneath our feet – and of how space/place transforms people’s everyday reality and sense of self. Cobb’s unsettlingly mundane subject matter nonetheless takes us on a journey that is visceral, surprising, fantastic, and frightening all at once. And finally, Astrid Jahnsen’s works ask us to reconsider the visual culture of everyday life and to locate the alternative stories therein. The stories, or the pictures, are not just merely about the overlooked, they are elegant and nuanced in their own right.