Photography and Text by Faizah Khan, Copyright 2021
Everyday objects, as ordinary as they appear, often bear significant value for an individual. Whether it be a tired old shoe or a lively stuffed animal, the objects we hold onto serve as a symbol of the life we once lived, are living, or want to live. The ability for inanimate objects to possess qualities that reflect a piece of an individual consequently inspired this project.
All items photographed belong to college students due to location and proximity. However, this was ideal because given the limited space college students must face when moving in, they must constantly narrow down their most precious items they plan on bringing with them to campus.
Through a series of conversations, each photograph was taken to capture the heartwarming memories and worthwhile stories that these items carry. While each photograph reveals a unique story about the individual, an observer can make their own interpretations of what these stories could hold.
Photography, Video and Text by Aliana Ho, Copyright 2021
Unity at the Initiative
Friday March 12th, 2021, we piled into my car and set for Vine Street. Through social media postings and online publications, we had heard about the Asian Arts Initiative’s exhibit, Unity at the Initiative. Dedicated to providing spaces and greater representation for queer and trans bodies of color, this partnering of the the two collectives involves multiple visual exhibits,pop-up indoor skate park made accessible through a Covid-safe, reservation-only system.
Upon our arrival, we were greeted by the brilliant Philly sun as we waited for someone to come and unlock the door. Stepping inside, the cool air graced our skins as our eyes adjusted to the lighting. We gazed in excitement at the skate ramps and rails, at the posters covering the walls and their beautiful artwork created by beautiful queer artists of color. After spending about an hour and a half skating, admiring the artwork, and even putting up some of the extra posters with the wheat paste method, we were told to go check out the visual installation on the backside of the building.
We collected our boards, extra posters to take home, and other belongings and wandered down the back alley, and came across the window display of the installation. Inside the window were countless posters, cans of spray paint, zines, tapestries, and an assorted clutter of other visual art pieces, illuminated by a soft yellow glow. The surrounding walls had beautiful murals, one titled “Color Me Home”, made in collaboration between the Asian Arts Initiative and the Philadelphia Mural Arts Program.
The main focus of the Asian Arts Initiative is to “create community through the power of art”. For UNITY, an Oakland, CA based organization, they focus on dismantling white supremacy by pushing for representation for queer, trans, and disabled, bodies of color in spaces like are typically dominated by white cis-men, like the skating community. In merging these two organizations and creating representative art and spaces for QTBIPOC, this installation provided a brilliant example of making changes within smaller communities to make impacts on a larger scale. Despite all the media attention these issues have been getting, especially since the shooting in Atlanta, Georgia, which happened just four days after we visited the show, does not mean that these issues did not exist before people started paying attention to them. This exhibit proves to show that conversations around accessibility, inclusion, and creating safe spaces for the most marginalized communities has and will continue to be important to creating lasting change.
About The Author: Aliana Ho is an Anthropology major, Visual Studies & Health Studie Minor student at Haverford College, Haverford, Pa. Class of 2022. To see additional articles by Aliana, click here: https://tonywardstudio.com/blog/we-thrive/
On entering Sanctuary: “Like my soul had returned to my body.
That’s how my story in sanctuary began.”
by Carmela Apolonia Hernandez, immigrant from Mexico
This timely publication, FACES OF COURAGE, highlighting the accomplishments of the New Sanctuary Movement at its 10th anniversary, coincides with the best opportunity in decades for undocumented immigrants to argue their reasons for achieving asylum.
The new guidelines, recently promulgated by the current administration, make asylum possible but not inevitable. And, at this moment, two families living in Sanctuary in Philadelphia have chosen to exit Sanctuary. New Sanctuary Movement’s effective support has given these two families the chance to give voice in their attempt to seek asylum.
*All royalties will benefit the New Sanctuary Movement
Please see the link below for more information and how to purchase the book in quality paperback or digital format.
Photography and Text by Rachel Grand, Copyright 2021
Pandemic Passover in Pennsylvania
Passover is one of the most important and widely celebrated Jewish holidays. It is a holiday that commemorates the Israelites’ exodus from Egypt: out of slavery, into freedom. It is an 8-day holiday centered around gratitude for that freedom.
As part of the exodus story, when the Israelites were fleeing from Egypt, they did not have enough time for their bread to rise. They had to take it with them from the oven while it was still unleavened. To remember this, as part of the observance of Passover, one does not eat any leavened bread. Rather, one is commanded to eat what the Israelites would have eaten, matzah, the unleavened bread, at least once a day for the duration of the holiday. Additionally, Ashkenazi Jews, those descended from Eastern European Jewry, traditionally do not eat rice, beans, corn or any other legumes. With so many restricted foods, it becomes necessary to be extremely intentional about what one eats.
Thus, Passover becomes a holiday centered around food. A holiday celebrated at home, rather than in a synagogue, there is autonomy, variety and creativity in how this holiday is observed. This indeterminacy is especially pronounced on a college campus, where each student comes from a different background and family tradition. The community that is created is thus intentional, formed from compromise.
Especially in a year of a pandemic, this holiday brings out the durability of the community. Because of the dietary laws, the Jewish organizations on campus provide meals for students that are kosher for Passover. This act of eating meals together, while maintaining social distance, creates a temporary, yet powerful space. In a time of pandemic induced social isolation, there is a newfound appreciation for these communal meals. But Passover comes and goes; the restrictions and alterations to the routine only last 8 days. The special dishes and foods for this holiday must be put away and all is restored back to normal. In a year, it will begin again.
In this photograph report, I plan to examine a piece called the White House Gate created by Rosalind Solomon. I will start with the biography of the photographer, Rosalind Solomon. After, I will explain how print quality, print materials, and print size impacts the image of The White House Gates image. Then I will claim that The White House Gate image is best categorized as its dominant formal characteristics as defined in John Szarkowski’s book: The Photographer’s Eye the detail. Lastly, I will conclude with how the other components Szarkowski mentioned will shape the photograph.
Rosalind Solomon: Biographical and Historical Context
Rosalind Fox Solomon was born on April 2 in 1930, at Highland Park, Illinois. She is an American artist, established in New York City, known for her portraits and connections to human suffering, ritual, and survival. Solomon attended Highland Park High School and graduated in 1947. She then attended Goucher College in Baltimore, Maryland, and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science in 1951. Then, Solomon got married and moved to Chattanooga, Tennessee. She then later divorced 63 years later after having two children. In 1968, Solomon began her photography work. She occasionally studied with Lisette Model, whose an Austrian-born American photographer primarily known for her frank humanism on her street photography from 1971 to 1977.
Before Solomon started to get into photography, she became the Southern Regional Director of the Experiment in International Living. She visited communities throughout the Southern United States, where she recruited families to host international guests to build on cross-culture in a personal way. Through her volunteer work with the Experiment in International Living, Solomon got the opportunity to travel to Japan, where Solomon stayed with a family near Tokyo. Later, when Solomon was 38 years old, she began to use an Instamatic camera to convey her feelings and ideas, which was a turning point in her career and life experience in photography.
In 1977 and 1978, Solomon moved to Washington where she photographed artists and politicians for her project series “Outside the White House”. Within this series, she photographed “The White House Gate”, the one I will later be exploring. This project lasted for about two years. Later on, in 1978, John Szarkowski included her work in the exhibition Mirrors and Windows at the Museum of Modern Art and presented examples from her Dolls and Mannequins series in the show. The use of dolls, children, and mannequins was some of the items she used as her subject. Also, Szarkowski selected 50 of her pictures to be part of the MoMA’s permanent collection. Her pictures appeared over the years in many different group exhibitions at the MoMA such as American Children, American Politicians, Pictures by Women: A History of Modern Photography, and The Original Copy: Sculpture in Photography 1839. Recently, the MoMA included her work in the anthology Photography at MoMA: 1960—Now, and curator, Peter Eleey, even dedicated a room to present her art pieces at MoMA PS1 in the Greater New York 2015 exhibition. Ultimately, this led to the rise of her as a photographer and the beginning of her work internationally like Peru, India, Germany, Zimbabwe, South Africa, etc.
Overall, Solomon’s work circulates between the personal and the universe as a whole. Her expertise is in her interpretation skill and the ability to take a snapshot of both social elements of the places she travels. In 2019, her artwork was recognized by receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Center for Photography. Over the past 45 years, Solomon has created inspirational work, presented in almost 30 solo exhibitions, about 100 group exhibitions, and in the collection of over 50 museums worldwide.
Medium and Presentation
As mentioned, Solomon worked on the “Outside the White House” series. In this series, Solomon created a piece called “The White House Gate” in 1977. The photograph is present in the Jane Lutnick Fine Arts Center at Haverford College. This image is a gelatin silver bromide print. A gelatin silver print can be sharply defined and detailed based on the light sensitivity to the silver halides. Also, this type of print can last several hundred years. The picture has a strong negative, specifically on the gate, which is probably due to the silver chloride to darken the gates and make the gate pop in the image.
The dimension of the picture is 15” x 15” (38 cm by 38 cm). The photograph is generally a regular size. But, it’s over matted with a beveled-shaped edge around the image. So it allows the viewer to focus more on the White House gate. Overall, the purchase of the photograph was through a Patrons of Art gift in May 1986.
“The Detail” in The White House Gate
In the book, the Photographer’s Eye, John Szarkowski describes an overview of the fundamental difficulties and opportunities of the photographs. In the introduction of the book, he offers a brief historical overview of photography, specifically how photography has evolved over the years and how he views it as a unique characteristic. Szarkowski begins the book by stating that “the invention of photography provided a radically new picture-making process- a process based not on synthesis but selection. The difference was a basic one. Paintings were made-constructed from a storehouse of traditional schemes and skills and attitudes-but photographs, as the man on the street put it, were taken” (1). This led to the posed question – how can the process of photography be used in creating meaningful/significant pictures and valid art? In the book, Szarkowski argues that photography has a unique place within the broader world of artistic practice. Throughout the book, Szarkowski discusses and provides exemplar photographs of characteristics of the medium that is represented as a form of art but does not define discrete categories of artwork. He states five main characteristics: the thing itself, the detail, the frame, time, and vantage point that are important for the creation of eloquent photography.
According to The Photographer’s Eye, Szarowski would say that the photograph of the White House Gate would be a picture representing “the detail”. The idea of “the detail” photography connects to depicting reality and depicting reality as it happens, in front of the photographer. The photography can not really “pose the truth”, but can capture snippets of the truth as it unfolds. So, the photographer needs to be content with representing the details of a narrative or an event, rather than trying to represent the whole thing.
In The White House Gate image, Solomon shows us different parts of the image. In the photograph, Solomon focuses on multiple details. One detail is the picture being taken in 1977 in front of the White House Gate at Washington, District of Columbia, US. The photograph displays the northwest gate of the White House during a snowstorm. The photograph shows that it was currently snowing as it was taken. In the picture, we see snowflakes falling as well as sticking to the gate and the ground. This detail informs the viewer of the time/season it occurred, which captured a fragment in depicting reality.
Another fragment is the tire marks on the ground. The tire marks are emphasizing that a car must have recently entire the White House before Solomon took this picture. Or Solomon could have intentionally had a car drive into the White House before she took the picture. This is another fragment that part takes in bringing the whole picture together.
Lastly, the darkness of the gate of the White House is a vital detail for the narrative. The strong negative of the photograph helps bring viewer attention to the gate and what surrounds the gate. Ultimately, through all these different elements and details, Solomon is portraying a form of a statement.
The Thing Itself, The Frame, Time, Vantage Point
In The Photographer’s Eye, Szarkowski states that the first characteristic is the thing itself. The “thing itself” means that photography provides a representation of the real world. Photographers focus on divulging what already exists. In the White House Gate image, Rosalind Solomon emphasizes a place that already exists. Specifically,that is very known to the US population and others around the world. But in the picture, she decided to center the image on the gate instead of the actual White House buildings itself.
Next, the “frame” refers to the edge and the border between the elements of the real scene that the photographer decided to include, and what they decided not to include. Solomon chooses to focus the photograph on the frame, specifically on the White House gate when viewers first see the image.
The fourth characteristic is “time” which provides the photographed location over time. Furthermore, the photographs can not directly represent the past or the future but can imply it. In The Photographer’s Eye, Szarkowski mentions two ways that time exposure produces images and insight. The first one is long time exposure and, the second one is a short time exposure. In the White House Gate image, we see time play a role with the snow falling and car tire marks in the snow. The snow informs us of what season it currently was when the picture was taken; which was winter and, the time the picture was taken it was snowing.
Finally, Szarkowski identifies the “vantage point.” The vantage point is when the photograph shows us the world from a variety of unusual angles and perspectives, which can alter our perspective of the world. Solomon portrays the image of the White House gate through a unique vantage point that can allow viewers to interpret the image in many different ways.