A powerful photography exhibition telling the stories of recent American veterans will open at the Philip and Muriel Berman Museum of Art
at Ursinus College Jan. 28 and run through April 7, in the Upper Gallery. An opening reception for the artist is set for Feb. 13 from 5 to 6:30 p.m., preceded by a talk by Karady at 4 p.m. the same day in the Museums lecture hall.
For the past six years, Jennifer Karady has worked with American veterans returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to create staged narrative photographs that depict their individual stories and address their difficulties in adjusting to civilian life. After extensive interview processes with the veterans and their families, Karady collaborates with each of her subjects to restage a chosen moment from war within the safe space of his or her everyday environment, often surrounded by family and friends.
The collision between or collapse of the soldier's world and the civilian world evokes the psychology of life after war, and the challenges that adjustment to the home front entails. The process of making the photograph is intended to be helpful for the veteran subject, and is conceptually related to cognitive behavioral therapy.
Each photograph takes approximately a month to produce and involves several extensive interviews (recorded), collaborative conceptualization, location scouting, producing a sketch, discussion/approval from veteran, propping, makeup, costuming, rehearsal of physical action, training local assistants, set construction, casting extras, artificial lighting and the photo shoot. The process of making the photograph culminates in a highly choreographed installation/event. There is no digital manipulation whatsoever in order to ensure the truthfulness of the staged moment and the authenticity of the veteran subject's participation.
Each large-scale color photograph is accompanied by a recounting of the veteran's story in his or her own words that has been transcribed and edited from the interviews. So far, Karady has produced fifteen photographs in the series with veterans in Nebraska, New Hampshire, upstate New York, New York City, California, Florida and Virginia and she hopes in the end to complete a series of twenty-five photographs.
Describing herself as working more like a painter than as a photographer, Karady differs in her practice from other staged narrative photographers in that she collaborates with real people to dramatize their stories through both literal depiction and metaphorical and allegorical means.