AFRICA: PORTRAITS & LANDSCAPES A PHOTOGRAPHIC LEGACY
As the historical and geographical epicenter of humankind, the African continent has long been thought to provide the underlying common thread in the essence of our human development. “Africa: Portraits and Landscapes; A Photographic Legacy,” exhibiting the work of Carol Beckwith & Angela Fisher, Dana Gluckstein, David Yarrow, and Jean-Baptiste Huynh, showcases photographers studying and portraying the various qualities that allow humans (and living creatures) to connect. Whether documenting the visually spectacular and communal ceremonies of courtship and marriage or creating captivating, dignifying portraits that enlist the empathy of the viewer, these photographers touch on subjects that are emotionally palpable and hopefully universally relatable. This exhibition features photographers who preserve and present the enduring yet susceptible condition of living; humanity flourishing together in an ever harsh, complex, and transient world.
Carol Beckwith & Angela Fisher each have over 40 years of field experience photographing Africa, creating pictures that are part ethnographic studies and part compelling works of art. In their quest to document tribal rituals and ceremonies in Africa before their disappearance due to clashes with contemporary culture, the photographers managed to have gained unparalleled access to some of the most remote areas of the continent. At times waiting as much as 12 years for permission to record seldom occurring ceremonies in previously unreachable tribal lands, Beckwith and Fisher gained access to secluded cultures through a mutual sense of intimacy, candor, and a profound wish to preserve the ceremonial heritage of the world’s oldest civilizations.
“In traditional African societies, the passage from one stage of life to the next is marked with important rituals and ceremonies. From the moment of birth, an African is connected to family, to community, and to the ancestors.”
David Yarrow personifies perseverance and preparation. Fueled by his rejection of the banal, of stock wildlife photography, Yarrow’s photographic motif challenges him into creating dynamic, dramatic pictures that necessitate a high degree of unpredictability. Yarrow often places himself in precarious, remote locations where the photographer’s often meticulous preparation comes into play; with uninterrupted patience and a goal of memorializing a unique, fleeting moment, David Yarrow’s photographs are full of vitality and a sense of urgency. Yarrow’s photography captures wildlife with a heightened sense of reality, with the goal of perpetuating their beauty and promoting an attitude of conservationism for the majestic creatures of an ancestral landscape.
Dana Gluckstein’s photographic oeuvre is renowned for the manner in which she portrays her subjects, with an ultimate mission to create dignifying, profound portraits. Creating portraiture that presents indigenous peoples in their immediate world, the photographer’s adept and compassionate disposition helps to generate images that channel memorable associations to its viewer, encouraging an affinity with the subject and the harmonizing insight that we are all, as human beings, related. Her academic background was in sociology; and she had a career in advertising and has found a way to blend her past experiences with her present passion, to preserve and document the principles of human dignity.
“The work of Dana Gluckstein helps us to truly see, not just appearances, but essences, to see as God sees us, not just the physical form, but also the luminous soul that shines through us.” – Desmond Tutu
Jean-Baptiste Huynh’s photography is direct, impactful, masterful, and transfixing. Huynh’s work resonates through the individualism of his subjects; the photographs almost appear as an intimate conversation with the viewer, focusing on the strength of the subject’s profile to create an arresting image. Huynh’s portraits position themselves eloquently through their physical size and full registration with a magnitude of scale and emotion that leaves the viewer with an acute sense of authenticity. As a protege of Irving Penn, Huynh’s compositions have the elegance and grace of classical portraiture.
In an ever-changing globalized world, that seems less keen on respecting tradition and readily disposes of the unfamiliar, the dedication to preserving humanity’s cultural arenas, whether by recording ancient rites and ceremonies or by conserving Africa’s wildlife, is an honorable, necessary, and arduous task. The photographers in this exhibition give a strong visual presence to a multitude of the vivid aspects of Africa, and in a larger dimension, every image becomes an engagement with humanity. As cultural diversity dramatically enhances the human spirit, its preservation should be considered an essential task for those skillful and intelligent enough to capture and preserve it.