Comments/Context: Enveloping blackness seems to be a mini-theme in contemporary photography. Subjects peer out from dark shadows, isolated from any kind of context, a mix of highlights and chiaroscuro providing ominous mystery and attention focusing direction. In the past year or so, Touhami Ennadre and Bill Henson have shown this kind of work in NY, and we can go back further to DiCorcia, Callahan and others who also employed this technique in varied ways.
I think these portraits walk a tricky line between powerful and moving imagery and a less savory anthropological examination. While the photographic approach may be modern, there is a whiff of old stereotypes risen again: poor Africans, inspiringly proud and beautiful in their destitution. Nga's pictures undeniably draw the viewer into the individual narrative of a specific person or family. Having been successfully sucked in, we then ask what these images have to tell us that is new; this is where I was left a bit puzzled. Maybe the answer is that unfortunately things haven't changed much, and we are still faced with the same societal challenges that have thwarted us for decades. As a result, I left the gallery with mixed feelings: impressed by the strength of the emotion that these images could elicit, but depressed by the conclusion that we are still telling the same African stories.
Through July 16th