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“Bodies in Question,” After Photography in French

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Algerian women 1960, © Marc Garanger

I have just curated the New York Photo Festival exhibition “Bodies in Question,” concerning human and virtual bodies, the ailing planet, and the troubled body politic, with fourteen artists represented. An excellent analysis of the exhibition by Leo Hsu appears on foto8.com, focusing on Marc Garanger’s 1960 identity photographs of Algerian women made for the French army. The issues of self-identification, of control over one’s own body, of colonialism and racism, of the importance of the veil, as well as of anger and resistance, are all part of Garanger’s involuntary work as a draftee and a photographer, and their contemporary echoes are quite powerful.

The thirteen other artists displayed work done much more recently on overlapping themes: omnipresent surveillance via Google (Michael Wolf), an open French prison with its frontiers marked by GPS (Alexandre Maubert), the victimization and enslavement of women (Raphael Dallaporta in France and Tina Enghoff in Denmark), the last views of the changing landscape of Antarctica (Lim Young Kyun), the circular digital “Shore Series”–one of them on an iPad–dealing with the rhythmic meeting of land and water in multiple parts of the globe (Luc Courchesne), people and their extraordinary avatars (Robbie Cooper), an imagined territory seen through someone else’s Webcam somewhere on the other side of the world (James Pomerantz), a memorial to civil rights horrors in America’s South (Jessica Ingram), “Mother Wit” on maternal wisdom handed down over the generations (Deborah Willis), the lives of America’s disenfranchised (Joseph Rodriguez), the “violence within us” both in America and Iraq from the point of view of an ex-Marine (Benjamin Busch), and the cultural exclusion of women “No Man’s Land” (Linn Underhill).

It was a pleasure working with all of the artists, and two comments that were spoken during the 4 1/2 day festival struck me–this was a case where each of the individuals were not only accomplished image-makers but extraordinary human beings, and, as Marc Garanger pointed out in his talk upon receiving the LIfetime Achievement Award, this was an exhibition where everyone’s work supported, echoed and amplifed each other’s, sometimes in very unexpected ways. The experience of making this show was a good one (and again I must thank Lucy Helton for being such a capable project manager).

We are hoping to travel the exhibition to other venues (the Festival is only a few days long), so if there is interest, please let me know.

I am also quite pleased to alert any interested readers that my book, After  Photography, is now published in French by Victoires Editions as Au-delà de la photographie. It has been fascinating to see the new perspectives that emerged during the translation by Hugues Lebailly, the overlapping issues and those that diverge as ideas move from one cultural context to another. The concrete directness of American English vs. the indirection and musicality of French made for new twists in the conceptualization of issues that are themselves often on the cusp of cultural change.


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