Comments/Context: This year's version of the ICP's annual Perspectives show gathers together three bodies of recent work that revolve around the idea of transplanted communities and the process of creating a feeling of home in a new environment. It's a loose theme that allows for divergent photographic approaches and cultural contexts.
Chien-Chi Chang's contrasting images of fathers working in New York and families back in China are the most successful. The men are photographed in black and white, sitting in cramped dormitories after a day of hard work, drinking beer, eating noodles, and calling home. The women and children are photographed in color, wives caring for babies, girls watching TV and lounging around. The contrast of these two worlds documents the dislocations that are occurring, where distance impedes communication and sacrifices are being made on both sides in the hopes of something better for the family. I liked the down time simplicity of these pictures, where the quiet loneliness of the subjects comes through.
Anna Shteynshleyger's images of her life in an Orthodox Jewish community in Des Plaines, Illinois, are the most understated and subtle, to the point of being less durably memorable. The photographs are opaque and closed, the meanings less identifiable: a bare lightbulb in a room, carnations on a windowsill, a bird's nest on the hood of a car, an uncle standing in the greenery, a still life of backyard leftovers and pink Crocs. From these images, I was less able to connect with the narrative being told, or to resonate with the particular nuances of this cultural world and its challenges. I needed a few more clues to understand why these moments mattered.
All three of these projects likely function best in book form, where an aggregation of images can tell a broader and more robust story. That said, Chang's photographs will resonate most with me going forward, as I think he was most able to document the complexities of the underlying emotional state of an uprooted, transplanted life.
- Chien-Chi Chang Magnum Photos page (here)
- Greg Girard artist site (here)
- Anna Shteynshleyger artist site (here)
Through May 6th