Tag Archives: Familiar Territory

Alyssa Miserendino: Our World Insideout

This week, I am sharing a few of photographers that I met at the Filter Photo Festival in Chicago….

I am of the belief that some of our most profound work comes from things we know. This is certainly the case with Chicago photographer, Alyssa Miserendino.  Alyssa is working on a multi-layered, global project that started with circumstances in her own life–the abandonment of her father, and eventually the collapse and loss of the family home.  Her project, Our World Insideout, begins with familiar territory and moves to Brazil, New Orleans, and Chicago.  Alyssa is about to open an exhibition of this work on December 6th at the Bette Cerf Hill Gallery in Chicago (funding provided by the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation).  The work will continue on to the Elmhurst Art Museum for an exhibition that runs from January 18th – mid April.
From a fellowship award from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, to an investigative journalism grant from the Driehaus Foundation, Alyssa continues to pursue personal bodies of work that assemble the ideas of home, memory & our relationships to one another emotionally. This work, in addition to her commercial work, has been widely exhibited and well published.

Our World Insideout
Our World Insideout was born from my young home life that was raw, violent & steeped in displacement and abandonment. The catalyst of this life-long project started with documenting my own abandoned home in 2004, from the inside. Then in 2009, during the economic crash, I found a relation to the familiar emotion of loss & I started documenting other’s homes. I created the imagery with the hope that this project will incite a visual, global dialog concerning the used & unused resources; thus inspiring change. It touches on the many levels of humanity & one of the most sacred places for us : home. Insideout is one word – there is no delineation between what happens behind closed doors & what is communicated to the outside world.

Images from the family home

Our World Insideout: Brazil (2010) 

I’ve been to properties with notices posted since 1998, walked though gates with layers
of cobwebs, & entered abandoned homes experiencing what is left behind – the day a
family & children were evicted, the day the owners ran out of funds to complete
construction, the day the owner died & the family neglected to clear the home of the
deceased’s belongings. I’ve captured images of a home 15 years forgotten & now
surrounded by mansions; held my breath in a house that is a historical site, splattered with
feces; & opened a never-ending sea of unlocked doors. However, I have also witnessed
what others have built with their own hands, resourced from other people’s garbage. I’ve
met people & listened to their stories about how they ended up taking over an abandoned
home; picked up a nomad with her fishing pole to visit her train station house & met a
woman who built her home around the base of a tree, from found objects. 

Our World Insideout: New Orleans

Our World Insideout: Chicago before & after (2012)

What you see here is Chicago from 2009 and Chicago from 2012.  Each Diptych has their own story, like each one of us.  Here is where another nature is being formed, and hopefully a dialogue for acknowledgements and change – a chance to grow in this world.


Insideout is one word–There is no delineation between what happens being closed doors, and what is communicated to the outside world.

Frank Armstrong

There is something remarkable about a photographer who has been looking through the lens for almost 60 years.  Frank Armstrong has a heightened way of seeing – capturing the nuances of found tableaus and exploring objects that have patina and remain to tell a story. He looks at the ordinary and sees beyond it and brings a beauty and poignancy to a landscape that many would overlook. At 77, he is truly a treasure in our photographic community.

His portraits reveal a sensitivity to humanity and the quiet dignity of simple moments of being.

Frank spent much of his life in Texas, but found himself on a small island near Alaska while serving in the Navy.  It was there that he picked up a camera in order to share his experiences with his family.  Frank has had a long career, in and out of academia (currently “in”, teaching at Clark University in Massachusetts), and rubbing shoulders with photographers who inspired and encouraged him along the way, including Russel Lee, Garry Winogrand, Oliver Gagliani, and most recently, Stephen Di Rado.  He was awarded a double Paisano Fellowship, has created three monographs, and has work in significant museum collections across the county. Though Frank lives and teaches in Massachusetts, he still prefers to make work in familiar territory: the southwest and Texas.  He currently has work in the exhibition, Trains, Planes, and Automobiles, at the Panopticon Gallery in Boston.
I am featuring select images of Frank’s color work from his series, Color.

My perfect day, week, month, or more, is to load the cameras into the truck and head out.  I’m in search of images that speaks of man’s influence on the landscape, and the effects of time.  My subjects are at times whimsical, obscure, and transitory.  They are not hidden, but they are seldom noticed by the passer-by.  I seek that which has been abandoned and allowed to decay with the passage of time.  

Through these symbols of man interacting with the ever-changing symbols of nature, I find a rather enigmatic representation of life, a study of our culture past and present; what Walker Evens called modern cultural artifacts.  I am incurably curious, and many of my images come from things that make me do a double-take. 

I question what I’m seeing and feeling, and try to answer those question by making an image.  I want the viewer to have some measure of my feelings and thoughts when I first viewed the scenes represented by my images.

2011 Benefit & Auction Spotlight: Jane Hilton

Pat Meinzer, Cowboy, Benjamin, Texas 2009 © Jane Hilton/ Nailya Alexander Gallery

Jane Hilton is one of the many great artists featured in our 2011 Benefit and Auction. Her photograph Pat Meinzer, Cowboy, Benjamin, Texas will be up for bidding during the evening’s Live Auction. Inspired by a commission in 2006 to photograph a 17 year old cowboy, Jeremiah Karsten, who traveled 4,000 miles on horseback from his native Alaska to Mexico, Jane set off on her own four year pilgrimage, criss-crossing the cowboy states of Nevada, Arizona, Utah, Texas, New Mexico and Wyoming to capture America’s 21st century cowboys which has culminated in her recently published book – Dead Eagle Trail. This particular image was nominated for the 2010 Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize and exhibited at The National Portrait Gallery as a runner up. She writes, of the image:

“This portrait is one of a series of cowboys I photographed in their homes, from the buckaroos of Nevada to the cowpunchers of Arizona and Texas. The paradox of photographing a cowboy at home, and showing their obsession with the lifestyle was much more fascinating to me, than photographing them on a horse.

A window acts as a constant reminder to the outside world. All of them were shocked that I wanted to go inside their houses, and sometimes even their bedrooms where they spend the least time. But it was much more interesting to see them in less familiar territory, revealing their softer and possibly more feminine side. They were always immaculate despite the harshness of their working environment. It is the contradictions that are infinitely more enlightening.

Pate’s bedroom clearly demonstrates a feminine touch by his wife, with their wedding photographs and religious icons on the walls. Most of the cowboys I photographed had a strong sense of spirituality. As one cowboy told me, “I don’t need to go to church. My horse is my church and I am out with God everyday.”

Freedom is a cowboys’ life. Most were brought up on ranches where it was always hard work and never particularly profitable. Even today a cowboy can expect to earn only a few dollars an hour, but this is not what drives them. Real cowboys boast of never having met a stranger, most can’t swim. All of them have a John Wayne story they love to share. This series is a celebration of The West as it is now. Nobody can predict whether in a hundred year’s time the cowboy will still be around.”

Jane Hilton is a photographer and filmmaker living in London. The contradictions in American society and the American dream are recurring themes in her work. She filmed a documentary series for the BBC, “The Brothel / Love For Sale,” as well as a series of exhibitions on desert landscapes, pimps and prostitutes. Jane’s work is regularly published in The Sunday Times Magazine and The Telegraph Magazine.

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