With only a few days left to see the Halsey Institute’s Southbound exhibit, it’s no surprise that photographers have come together one last time to provide insight on seeing the world through a camera’s lens.
“The Photographer and Uncommon Access: A Southbound Artists Panel” took place on February 23rd. Photography is often seen “as the ability not to see different things, but to see things differently,”as panelist Susana Raab described. The panel discussed the notion that there are elements of life which photographers have “uncommon access” compared to others.
Rob Amberg spoke first, detailing his journey as a photographer. He used the camera lens as a shield. Later, he finally stepped out and established connections with his subjects. His photographs depict true rural life in North Carolina. Amberg secures his uncommon access in the way he interacts with people. Amberg is well known in the community, and often invited into subjects’ homes. After 45 years of photography, he still doesn’t know what gives him the right to gain this access into people’s lives. Amberg uses his gift to “build bridges between cultures” and “speak to the shared experience of being human.”
Sofia Valiente was granted uncommon access to a world we don’t often observe. For a year and a half she lived and worked within Miracle Village. The Village is an isolated Florida community for registered sex offenders. Her work focuses on 12 of the 150 residents transitioning back into society with this new, permanent label. She described her artistic process as giving an enormous amount of her time to people just listening and getting to know them. She worked to gain these resident’s trust, and was allowed uncommon access into their lives and thoughts.
Susana Raab uses her perspective to observe the everyday things around us through a new lens. Her first work, “Consumed,” is a study of consumer culture in fast food. It observed how our dependency on the industry has seeped into everyday lives. Her second work was a series on migrant workers in Florida.She uses specific lenses and lighting to uniquely capture light and images. She also photographs Antebellum homes of the south, a quintessential southern icon.
Deborah Luster was the last photographer on the panel. Her work was similar to Sofia’s in that she was officially granted access to a community the outside world rarely sees. Her photography series included prisoner portraits from Louisiana’s Angola Prison. She lets her subjects pose against a black backdrop with no prison paraphernalia in sight. She never asks their reason for imprisonment. Luster encourages viewers to look at the photographs and view people as themselves, with ignorance on who they are or what they’ve done.
All of these artists’ works can be seen in the Southbound exhibition from now until March 4th.