Photographer Damian Wampler announced that two prints from the series Darfur in Brooklyn have been acquired by the Brooklyn Museum
. One of the prints, Untitled 1 (Kitchen), will be on display in the American Identities galleries on the 5th floor from August-December 2010.
Darfur in Brooklyn is a documentary photography project that shadows a day in the life of a Sudanese taxi driver named Omar.
Damian met Omar at a protest in front of the Sudanese Embassy in Washington, DC. He soon learned that Omar lived in the neighborhood adjacent to his in Brooklyn. Damian began shooting portraits of many of the 300 Darfuri refugees that live in Kensington, a Brooklyn neighborhood just south of Prospect Park, but soon realized that Omars face reflected the struggle of the Darfuris as a whole.
The Darfuris accepted me and opened their houses to me. I became friends with many of them, but Omar was the most receptive to being photographed. His home, his hands and his eyes tell me everything that I want to convey about their life and struggle, says Damian.
Omar came to the United States more than four years ago, leaving behind his entire extended family in order to escape the genocide. Black Africans are being killed strictly because of their race. The genocide continues in Darfur, and photographer Damian Wampler has worked to spread the news about the senseless killing so that perhaps people will take notice, and governments will take action.
The best documentary photographers give voice to the voiceless. As the tragedy in Darfur drags on, it becomes less popular and seemingly less urgent, Damian says, hoping to bring Darfur back into the spotlight with stunning, provocative images, now that there is a new administration in the White House.
Damians approach to documentary photography uses the language of fine art instead of photojournalism. Omar has been thrust into a very alien world, far from his family and friends. In Darfur he earned a university degree in Arabic. Now he drives a taxi. Before coming to America, he didnt have a drivers license and had never seen snow. Each image stands on its own and tells his story through the mood, tone and color of the picture.
The process was collaborative, and a friendship between the photographer and the subject developed. Damian took pictures of the Darfur refugee community in Brooklyn over the course of four months in the winter and spring of 2009. The images are intimate, taking the viewer into Omars house, his job, and the often stark and dreary reality of his life.
Omar introduced a new world to me, and it shows in the photographs, says Damian.
Prior to being acquired by the Brooklyn Museum, five prints from Darfur in Brooklyn were included in the group show Surface Tension at the School of Visual Arts Gallery in October 2009.
What impressed me the most about this group of photographers is how fearless each one of them is in capturing their subjects, Surface Tension curator Dan Halm says, from technical know-how to emotional impact, they all move beyond what one comes to expect within the realm of digital photography.
The Brooklyn Museum acquired two prints in June 2009, and Damian donated two other prints to the New York Historical Society.
The prints are a part of New Yorks history, and I want the images to stay there. America has a legacy of sheltering outcasts and refugees that continues to this day. Omar and his children will have a different life in America, and Im grateful to be one of the people that they embraced here.
Damian is a lifelong documentary photographer who originally hails from Newark, Delaware. Damian graduated from Boston University in 1999 with a bachelors degree in English and Anthropology, and two weeks later boarded a place bound for Kyrgyzstan to serve in the Peace Corps.
He served as a Peace Corps volunteer in the Kyrgyz Republic from 1999-2001 teaching English in a remote, Russian speaking village. Later, he earned a Masters degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in Russian, Eastern Europe and Central Asian Studies with a concentration in Human and Political Geography and returned to the Kyrgyz republic from 2005-2006 as a Fulbright researcher. In 2006 he moved to Park Slope, Brooklyn, and later to Crown Heights.
While in New York City, Damian earned a Masters degree in digital photography at the School of Visual Arts. He also wrote a produced a full-length play in New York City in June 2009.
He is currently and officer in the Foreign Service working at the U.S. Embassy in Tajikistan.