Open Show #7 @ the Bronx Documentary Center June 2013
On Wednesday, June 5, 2013 I took an intrepid trip all the way uptown to the Bronx to see the Open Show NY One-Year Anniversaryscreening. I admit that I can be a bit lazy sometimes about traveling to an event that is within walking distance (!) but this was well worth the journey, and luckily it was a beautiful evening for everyone to be sitting outside in this amazing city of ours, viewing photography at night. Now, you may remember that I have mentioned the Open Show in my previous newsletters – they are a global network of which Open Show NY is a part, but this was my first time attending. Radhika Chalasani is the lead producer, and we have known one another for a while, so it was good to finally go and support this event. Watch out for future dates, since I might even MC for them at some point! And to see more photos of the event go to the Open Show NY Facebook Page.
The event took place at the Bronx Documentary Center, thanks to co-founders Mike Kamber and Danielle Jackson. The BDC is a lovely old building which houses a non-profit space for photography, film and new media. There is a cute little courtyard out back where the screening was held, along with made-to-order BBQ and affordable beverages. As I said, it was a beautiful evening, and although not as warm as when I was in Palm Springs recently, I was still transported back to that satisfying sensation of simply immersing us, the audience, with a series of photography projects, all documentary yet each one quite different.
First up was Jason Eskenazi with a project he calls “Double Zero” – an homage to B&W photography, film photography, that is, and a series of both negative and positive slides of those first half-frames we find on a roll of film, number double zero. Jason talked about how they gave him this feeling of “wanting to become something,” much like the chord of E.
Recently Jason has been living in Turkey, but his anecdotes from when he was living in New York and working as a security guard at the Met were totally hilarious. For example, he had a personal goal of seeing his own work hanging in the museum, at which point he would be “a guard, guarding his own work!” Jason openly admitted that he realized early on he did not belong in the editorial or commercial world of photography, so he figured out how to write grants enabling him to work on his personal projects and books. And so far, he said, it has worked out nicely for him.
Next up was a young Armenian photographer Diana Markosian and her project “Goodbye My Chechnya” on young Chechen girls who are living in a strict and changing religious environment, where many are still being kidnapped and married off without any say-so. Diana spent time living in Russia, and in Chechnya alongside these young women in their world, witnessing their lives firsthand, and photographing her experiences. Even with their growing religious restrictions on dress code, they still retain a desire to somehow stay modern, as captured in Diana’s favorite image from the series of a young woman inside a room at prayer, with her high heels carefully placed outside the door.
From her website: For young girls in Chechnya the most innocent acts could mean breaking the rules. A Chechen girl caught smoking is cause for arrest; while rumors of a couple having sex before marriage can result in an honor killing. The few girls who dare to rebel become targets in the eyes of Chechen authorities. After nearly two decades of vicious war and 70 years of Soviet rule, during which religious participation was banned, modern-day Chechnya is going through Islamic revival. The Chechen government is building mosques in every village, prayer rooms in public schools, and enforcing a stricter Islamic dress code for both men and women. This photo essay chronicles the lives of young Muslim girls who witnessed the horrors of two wars and are now coming of age in a republic that is rapidly redefining itself as a Muslim state.
The next presentation was a multi-media piece entitled “Riding The Dog: America From The Bus” by Brooklyn-based photographer Brendon Stuart, which is the beginning of what will be a much larger edit and hopefully installation down the road. Brendan has been traveling around the country by Greyhound Bus to see who still travels by bus, and what is the experience like? I loved this piece, even in its initial “raw” form, there was great music, and a mixture of stills and video, but it was when we heard a series of sound bites of the passengers talking and joshing with one another, and the bus driver delivering his cryptic announcements about “not smoking in the toilets” or “peeing in the bushes,” for my money, he really got everyone engaged with a perfect combination of multi-media “experience.”
Last but not least we had another Brooklyn-based photographer Spencer Platt, with his “Tegucigalpa: Violence and Grief” – a report from Honduras for Doctors without Borders or MSF (Médecins Sans Frontières) – although it was getting a bit late by this time so sadly not everyone stayed for his presentation – their loss! In contrast to other documentary photographers who take months and months and sometimes years to document a particular project, Spencer is a “wire” or news photographer for Getty Images so he loves a deadline, that’s what he’s used to, so this piece was basically shot in a matter of days. Get in, and get out. Take the photographs without getting involved. When Spencer spoke afterwards, he said he likes to be anonymous as a photographer, and that we need more emphasis on the “subject” rather than on the photographer.
From the MSF website: In Tegucigalpa, the capital of Honduras, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is providing medical assistance to vulnerable people facing extreme violence and a lack of access to health care. Many of these patients are young people who live on the streets and suffer the most from what the MSF staff call an “epidemic of violence”.
And here’s an article by Chris Wilkins, Deputy Director of Photography for Dallasnews.com published July 25, 2012.