Tag Archives: Historical Context

Shared Vision: A Conversation with Sondra Gilman, Celso Gonzalez-Falla, and Mitch Epstein

Flag, 2000 (c) Mitch Epstein

In the mid-70s, Mitch Epstein was exhibiting some of his earliest work, some of the images first to elevate color photography into the realm of fine art, joining the ranks of Stephen Shore and William Eggleston. Right around that time, Sondra Gilman, who, along with her husband Celso Gonzalez-Falla, has been repeated ranked among the top photo collectors in the world by ARTnews, purchased her first photograph.

She had “tripped over a [Eugène] Atget show” at MoMA, she tells New York Social Diary in an interview (accompanied by dozens of images of the collection at home in their Upper East Side townhouse), and “literally had an epiphany.” She ended up buying three $250 prints at a time when photographs “had no value.” Since then, the couple’s collection has grown to several hundred vintage prints, and their value, surely to no one’s surprise today, has grown astronomically.

Marcelle Polednik, Director MOCA Jacksonville, Celso Gonzalez-Falla and Sondra Gilman at a walkthrough of Shared Vision during Aperture’s Armory Brunch 2012.

On Wednesday, April 11, 2012 Aperture Foundation presents a conversation with Gilman and Gonzalez-Falla alongside Epstein, whose work features prominently in the Shared Vision collection (at Aperture through April 21, 2012). This ambitious exhibition, organized by the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) Jacksonville, curated by Ben Thompson and Paul Karabinis, brings together their most iconic images reflecting the diverse nature of an entire century of photography. The exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue published by MOCA and produced by Aperture, including historical context for each image and photographer as well as curatorial remarks.

Epstein, who won the Prix Pictet in 2011, the Berlin Prize in Arts and Letters in 2008, and the Kraszna-Krausz Photography Book Award in 2004, also appears in the New York Times Magazine Photographs, edited by Kathy Ryan, and Aperture issue 168. A former student of Garry Winogrand at Cooper Union in the early ’70s, his work has since landed in the collections of the MoMA, the Whitney, the Getty Museum, SFMOMA, and Tate Modern in London. While his projects often start as independent explorations or excursions, he has a strong inclination to “engage with issues beyond self-reflexive ones,” he tells BOMB in a lengthy interview about how some of his latest projects including American Power, progressed from an editorial assignment, to a print series, to a book.

Watch a great video shot at Tate Modern of Epstein discussing his latest series and exploring what makes a strong photograph. Check out photos from our the walkthrough of the Shared Vision exhibition with Marcelle Polednik, Director of MOCA Jacksonville and the collectors, and the VIP walkthrough during last weekend’s AIPAD Photography Show. And find images of the installation as well as an index of the work on view at DLK Collection.

Shared Vision: A Conversation with Sondra Gilman, Celso Gonzalez-Falla, and Mitch Epstein
Wednesday, April 11, 2012 at 6:30 pm
FREE

Aperture Gallery and Bookstore
547 West 27th Street, 4th Floor
New York, New York
(212) 505-5555

Securing Food in Chicagoland

I arrived in the South Side of Chicago in June 2011 anticipating tall buildings clustered together and people relaxing on stoops, similar to my Brooklyn neighborhood. Instead, the large, century-old single family homes and sprawling lawns conjured visions of suburbia. Despite the frequency of blight, the wide tree-lined streets oozed tranquility. Yet within my first days in Chicago, segregation overwhelmed me. I quickly noticed that blacks and whites rarely mix, that the systematic neglect of black neighborhoods imprisons residents, and that an unexplained white woman strolling through neighborhood streets seemed to make people uncomfortable.

I’d come to Chicago after receiving a Magnum Foundation Emergency Fund  grant to pursue a project about the city’s problems with food security and its urban agriculture movement. Around 384,000 people without transportation live more than a mile from a grocery store and have difficulty obtaining healthy options. But, because race weighs so heavily upon Chicago, I quickly became most interested the historical context of this modern day crisis. Time and again, I encountered mistrust and hostility on both sides: I swam through white entitlement on the north side, and black suspicion on the south. Still, people seemed relieved and eager to talk when I mentioned the ever-present segregation.

Chicago is one of those places where you can see recent U.S. history sprawled out before you, linear-timeline-style. From Industrialization to The Great Migration, to Redlining, to institutional segregation, to the refusal of banks to invest in black areas, to the departure of industry—the local economy, emotional empowerment, physical health and education have been stunted. Food security connects with the aforementioned issues, and is one way of examining the larger context.

The more time I spent in Chicago, the clearer it became that the solution to food security requires more than just food. At grocery stores, I saw shopping carts overflowing with processed products, regardless of whether the store sold fruit and vegetables.  Conversely, I visited community gardens and witnessed the profound power of gardening to inspire healthy living, reduce stress and connect those involved with a larger purpose.  Yet the reality is that not everyone in the community is interested in gardening or buying healthy food. Further, Chicago’s brutal winters limit the outdoor growing season to roughly three months.

Halfway through my first month of shooting, I met Orrin Williams, the founder and director of the Center for Urban Transformation. Born and raised in the South Side community of Englewood, he is familiar with Chicago’s problems and invested in finding holistic solutions. After 30 some years advocating urban agriculture and sustainable communities, Mr. Williams is convinced that building chain grocery stores won’t fix the problems. Instead, Mr. Williams has devised a holistic community redevelopment plan. Williams seeks to convert abandoned buildings into locally owned businesses that will enable the community to thrive. These entities include: year round indoor gardens, health and exercise facilities, stress-reduction centers, healthy cooking schools, community centers, arts education centers, and, perhaps most innovative, a new model of small grocery stores that provide affordable healthy food and free onsite cooking instruction.

Willing to engage me in hours of thought-provoking conversation, introduce me to people and places who add depth and breath to my project and be seen with a white woman, Mr. Williams has been an essential partner in my work.

In the next phase of this project, Mr. Williams and I are working together to create a public art installation that invites Chicagoans to visualize what a sustainable community would look like. I want my photographs to do something tangible, and I want to recognize and unite others who have done substantive documentary work in Chicago. Inspired by the belief that a collective voice is stronger than that of one person, we are seeking other photographers to collaborate with. Our images will be printed onto weatherproof material and installed on blighted buildings. Alongside the images will be text asking viewers to envision the blighted structure as a community center, grocery store or cooking school/ Viewers will be invited to voice their support by signing a petition via text messaging. For more information please view our Kickstarter campaign.

Emily Schiffer is a Brooklyn-based photographer.