Tag Archives: Childhood Home

Andy Freeberg’s uncanny portraits of Russian museum guards

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Yuri Kugachs Before the Dance, State Tretyakov Gallery, 2009.
From the Guardians series Andy Freeberg

In the art museums of Russia, women sit in the galleries and guard the collections. When you look at the paintings and sculptures, the presence of the women becomes an inherent part of viewing the artwork itself. I found the guards as intriguing to observe as the pieces they watch over.

In conversation they told me how much they like being among Russias great art. A woman in Moscows State Tretyakov Gallery Museum said she often returns there on her day off to sit in front of a painting that reminds her of her childhood home. article writing submission . Links backlinks blog comments . Another guard travels three hours each day to work, since at home she would just sit on her porch and complain about her illnesses, as old women do. She would rather be at the museum enjoying the people watching, surrounded by the history of her country.

Andy Freeberg

See and read more about Freeberg’s current exhibition, Guardians, at the Cantor Arts Center at Stanford University.

Two Photographers’ Mission to Retrace a Lost Liberia

Jeff and Andrew Topham were five and three, respectively, when their father’s job moved them from the Yukon, Canada to just outside of Monrovia, the capital city of Liberia, in 1976, four years before a military coup and two subsequent civil wars would devastate the West African nation. The boys lived in what they remember as paradise: endless beaches, thick jungles and countless adventures with their pet chimp named Evelyn. Their father, John, documented this time with thousands of photographs, inspiring a love for photography and filmmaking in both brothers.

In May 2010, the Tophams—now photographers themselves—returned to Monrovia to see what had become of their childhood home. “Our original idea was to revisit and re-shoot the influential and iconic photos of our childhood,” says Jeff Topham. What began as a personal exploration of their youth turned into a documentary film project titled Liberia 77 after the Tophams realized that many of the citizens they encountered did not own any photographs. “I was really interested in the connection between photography and memory,” Topham says. “How much my dad’s photographs influence my memory and what was actually real.”

Although they had seen images of the trouble Liberia had experienced in the last 20 years, the Tophams’ understanding changed after hearing stories of the fighting from citizens who had known their family. “You can read about those stories, but when you are actually sitting with someone and they are telling you first hand, it seems to hit a lot harder,” Topham says. “I think the emotional impact was definitely bigger than the physical.”

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John Topham’s Exchem ID. Many Liberians got rid of of their work ID cards to stay alive during the civil war.

The most staggering realization, which became the central focus of Liberia 77, was the absence of pictures. “The fact that nobody we encountered had any photographs, to me, was remarkable,” Topham says. During the civil wars, the possession of photographs—even on job identification cards—meant a person had money, a fact that could cause one to lose his or her life. Many people would get rid of them just to survive. “People hadn’t seen photos of Liberia from before the wars,” Topham says. “We had this stack of photographs from my dad that we were using as reference, and they almost became this stack of historical documents.”

During one part of Liberia 77,  Liberian photojournalist Sando Moore asks, “If you don’t know where you came from, how can you know where you are going?” That poignant questions speaks to the heart of the Tophams’ film: to give Liberian citizens a connection to their past in order to grow and reconstruct their future. “The fact that the country was destroyed over time, but was also built over time—I think to give people just a sense of history and of time passing is important,” Topham says.

Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who was inaugurated for a second term today, also spoke briefly for the documentary. “I wish those who have photographs of our national existence find a way to keep them because at some point we will need to establish, re-activate our museum,” she says. “The only thing that could capture for the young people Liberia’s road from independence to where we are today would be if we could gather good photographs that rarely depict that. I hope those of you who are skilled in this and those of you who have all these years been able to keep these photographs, make sure you able us to copy them so we have our children know their own country.”

Since leaving Liberia at the end of last spring, and on the plea from President Sirleaf, the brothers have done just that. They’ve been collecting photographs from around the world  to help create a photographic archive for the people of Liberia at the National Museum in Monrovia. The Tophams have collected nearly 700 photographs to date, and they are looking for funding to return to Monrovia this fall to stage an exhibit and hand the pictures of peace over to the museum.

Liberia 77 has been shown on Canadian television and film festivals around the world. Read more about the project here. If interested in donating pre-war photographs of Liberia, click here. To learn more about the Tophams’ Indie Go-Go Fund Raising Platform, click here

Examining Evidence: This Week in Crime Unseen Programming

Please join us this week as we host two programs examining the very nature of physical evidence and how this evidence allows people to return again and again to the scenes of violent crimes. Both events, which run in conjunction with our current exhibition, Crime Unseen, are free and open to the public.

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Wednesday, November 30 at 6p.m.
Video Playlist: The Evidence Show(s)
Featuring work by:
Steve Matheson
Semi-Conductor
Jessie Stead
Michael Bell-Smith
Noah Klersfeld
Steve Reinke
Jacob Ciocci

In criminal cases, physical evidence is paramount, offering tangible proof of a violent crime. Before becoming evidence, however these things were just things and these places were just places. The perpetrators were just people, not criminals but strangers and neighbors. The work in this program considers the potential for everyday objects, ordinary surroundings and average people to become evidence of something beyond the familiar. Curated by Jesse MacLean.
@MoCP, 600 S. Michigan Ave., Chicago

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Thursday, December 1 at 7 p.m.
Murder in a Nutshell: Corinne May Botz at the Glessner House
Corinne May Botz examines real-life crime scenes one step removed, photographing dollhouse “nutshell studies” created by criminologist and heiress Frances Glessner Lee that meticulously recreate unexplained deaths. These models, based on actual homicides, suicides and accidental deaths from the 1940s and ’50s, were created to train detectives to assess visual evidence. Botz will speak about her time photographing the grisly nutshells at Glessner’s childhood home, the Glessner House Museum.
@ Glessner House Museum, 1800 South Prairie Ave., Chicago

Thanksgiving Tradition: Gillian Laub’s Turkey Day

For as long as she can remember, Thanksgiving has been photographer Gillian Laub’s favorite holiday. “So many of my memories from childhood are around Thanksgiving because I have a huge family, and that was when everyone from all sides came together.” Ten years ago, Laub began photographing her family’s annual gatherings—which take place at Laub’s childhood home or her sister’s house in upstate New York—an experience she says has allowed her to watch her family grow up and record the process for posterity. “I really started photographing Thanksgiving because there’s something incredible about the time of the year,” Laub says. “The changing and transitioning of the seasons and the aging of my family members—there was something symbolic that I wanted to mark and document.” Beyond the photos, Laub also created a poignant video of her family titled “Four Generations”, which premiered at LOOK 3 photo festival this June.

There’s one gap in the decade-long series. In the summer of 2007, Laub’s grandfather Irving passed away, and that November, she found herself unable to take any pictures. “Everyone felt a marked change that Thanksgiving,” she says. “It was my grandfather’s favorite holiday, and he was the patriarch of the family. I just remember it was almost like a religious ceremony—his carving of the turkey—and the whole family just felt an incredible sense of loss that year.” Since then, her grandmother’s health has also deteriorated, which Laub says has made looking through the photographs painful at times. “The photographs mark the aging process, which can be beautiful and difficult at the same time,” she says. “But that’s why I have this annual tradition of documenting the holiday. It allows me to really reflect on the year—what has changed, what has been lost, what has been learned, and what we have to be thankful for.”

Gillian Laub is a photographer based in New York and a frequent contributor to TIME. She is currently working on a project about the American South. See more of her work here

Gabriela Herman

A few months ago, I featured a highly personal project by Gail Seely. Gail had been revisiting a difficult childhood, and in a way, reclaiming her childhood by examining artifacts that her mother had packed away decades before. After that post, Gabriela Herman wrote me that she had also created a body of work that was very similar without knowing about Gail’s work. Gabriela’s project, Holding On, captures objects that had meaning and significance from a happy childhood before they were lost to the transitions that come with the sale of the family home.

Gabriela’s series about bloggers, featured on Lenscratch in February, has gone “viral”– showcased and celebrated on blogs and in exhibitions, including 2011 Center Forward at the Center for Fine Art Photography, Fort Collins, CO and the Win Initiative, NY.

Holding On:In the fall of 2010, when my beloved childhood home abruptly sold, I was given a weekend to clear out the 25+ years of belongings that had remained largely untouched. It was pure chaos. Things were being thrown out the third floor window to the dumpster in the driveway below. No time for tears.

Amidst this insanity, I felt the need to capture some of these artifacts, an act which played out like revisiting my childhood in fast forward, frame by frame. The stuff that we accumulate, however valuable at the time, in fact ends up being just stuff, eventually all garbage bound. I had preserved the memories of the past through these objects, but once documented, their physical presence became unnecessary. It is through these images that the nostalgia remains, and I continue to hold on.