ROCHESTER, NY.- Recent photography acquisitions are in the spotlight at George Eastman House International Museum of Photography & Film. The newly opened, ongoing exhibition What Were Collecting Now explores international, contemporary interpretations of the manner in which people affect the places they inhabit. It was curated by the Eastman Houses graduate students, who reviewed several hundred photographs acquired by the museum over the last three years and selected 53, opting to focus on contemporary work.
What Were Collecting Now features five contemporary photographers: Cecilia Arboleda, John Divola, Michael Eastman, Patrick Nagatani, and Simon Norfolk. The work represents diverse corners of the globe, from Colombia to Egypt, and depicts human presence in an environment without the appearance of the people themselves.
Born in Colombia, long-time Miami resident Cecilia Arboleda evokes memory and longing in her series Rememberings. The 12 photographs selected from the series document Latin America through a candid and personal lens. Arboledas intuitive sense of composition and use of natural light direct the viewer to the subtle details in the image. The images of laundry hanging on a clothesline, or the wrinkled sheet of an unmade bed, explore the intimate cultural practices that define place.
Award-winning photographer John Divolas images from his Isolated Houses series made in the Southern California desert are, as he puts it, "evidence of existential desire." The small houses almost merge into the landscape, their subtle color and unique character raising questions about those who live in such open, sparsely inhabited places. The occupants of the houses are unknown; the images are identified only by latitude and longitude. Four images from this series are featured.
Also featured are two photographs by St. Louis native Michael Eastman, whose photographs depict urban landscapes both used and altered by their inhabitants. The images are familiar to many a spray-painted face on a dilapidated wall, a desolate parking lot filled with trash that appears to have an intentional order. They are the remnants of human activity in any contemporary city, the signs and symbols that prove life was there.
Further challenging the notion of photographic truth, the exhibition includes 25 photographs from Patrick Nagatanis series Excavations, in which the artist documents the fictional unearthing of automobiles at historically and archaeologically significant sites around the world. Nagatani constructs a context for his photographs, informing viewers that the Japanese archeologist Ryoichi, guided by mysterious maps, has discovered a worldwide automobile culture that developed concurrently with our own. Nagatanis photographs document the excavations and in turn act as evidence of the existence of the culture.
Nigerian-born photographer Simon Norfolk, perhaps best known for his 2002 series of photographs made in the battlefields of Afghanistan, turns his camera to the water shortage in the American West. The selected 10 images from Norfolks Lake Mead series were created for the article The Perfect Drought, published in the New York Times Magazine in October 2007. Featured are images of boats stranded on cracked, dry land, depicting a tangible threat of water shortage.
Under the supervision of Dr, Alison Nordström, Eastman Houses curator of photographs, this exhibition was organized by students Alice Carver-Kubik, Alison Demorotski, Kristin Dudley, Marilia Fernandes, Julie O'Rourke, Adam Sherman, Tess Sparkman, and Amber Sulick. The students curated the exhibition while are enrolled in the Photographic Preservation and Collections Management masters degree program, offered jointly by Torontos Ryerson University and George Eastman House