Home for Good
New York Photo Festival
14-17 May 2009
Home… the place where we feel safe yet the first place to be threatened in times of war or economic meltdown. Home is also the place where we take time to assimilate the demands of a constantly changing world. Every war photographer is in the business of finding a way to bring that war back home, not to domesticate it (though that will sometimes happen) but in an attempt to expose some truths of war. Storytelling begins at home.
For NYPH09, we have brought together different styles and approaches to photography to explore this theme. With the photos of 84-year-old Chicago grandmother Lorraine Grupe from the Second World War, we witness how she and her six sisters used photography to send messages of support to US troops fighting in the Philippines. We see how the sophisticated medium of photography has always been used for a basic purpose: to help people communicate. Documentary photography, whether its use is familial, photojournalistic or artistic, always carries with it that desire.
Tim Hetherington’s images of sleeping soldiers in Afghanistan – their temporary respite, asleep in their ‘cots’ – belies the experience of the heavy fighting and lost lives they have all experienced. As well as the portraits, Hetherington has interspersed stills with filmed footage to bring home the taste of war.
Two further British photographers, Simon Roberts and Venetia Dearden, provide a pastoral yet contemporary take on home, looking inwards to the land and the family rather than out to the wars that were – are – still waging.
Belgian photojournalist Bruno Stevens uses photography in its vital role to bear witness to these wars. Our installation of his most recent body of work from Gaza shows that conflicted land’s residents bombed out of their homes. In our homes, such imagery flickers briefly past our eyes, on newspapers or via TV screens in such a way that we become accustomed to it, despite its abject horror. It fades into the background like wallpaper and it is in this way that we have chosen to present it here, so we can take the time to reconsider its purpose and its effect.
We are proud to include new work from the great photographer Chris Killip. For his native Isle of Man, Killip has created a set of stamps for the island’s Post Office. The faces of farm workers and labourers, people whose relationship with their home soil was and remains close, have become the currency of communication itself.
For more people than ever before, home is a moveable concept, stuck somewhere between a dream and a memory. It is this feeling that Seba Kurtis, a young Argentinean photographer, brings to his work on immigration. His unorthodox, multilayered photographs are a product of his own shifting experience as a stateless individual.
The biggest news story on the home front for the capitalist West over this last year is of course the economy. The economic migrants who aspire to the riches of these societies may only find debt and bankruptcy. Adam Nadel has created a body of work that shows the experience of a different kind of front line; that of the factory worker, who suddenly finds himself fighting for his survival. These images complement the series of portraits by Louie Palu of exhausted young US marines on duty – meeting Hetherington’s frontline images head on.
Finally, with the work of David Gray, we are able to touch upon the question that haunts each and every documentary photograph: is it true? Is this what happened? Gray has chosen a documentary aesthetic to portray a fictional representation of a people and place, yet his work carries with it an emotional truth so sensitively articulated that we are forced to question our own parameters of where truth lies.
So where does that leave us? We hope that this exhibition tackles some of the important issues that face the world and the individual in the spring of 2009 and that it valorizes the photograph in its many forms as a potent means of transmission. We hope we have been able to transport you for a little while by creating a space for contemplation, before you head back home, for good.
View installations shots of the exhibition below.