The extraordinary work of Susan Meiselas is being celebrated this fall with an exhibition at ICP which has an accompanying publication, the re-release of her important work in Nicaraugua during the revolution and a public lecture at Aperture. Susan is, for me, is an artist who shows demonstrates responsibility towards her subjects; her work on their behalf does not end when the picture is made. I urge you to learn more about her work and attend the upcoming discussion at Aperture to hear her words on her intentions and commitments.
The exhibition “Susan Meiselas: In History” has opened at ICP in midtown Manhattan; it will remain on view until through January 4, 2009. There is an accompanying catalogue which features an extensive interview with Meiselas with writings by Meiselas, Kristen Lubben (Author), Caroline Brothers (Contributor), Allan Sekula (Contributor) and David Levi Strauss (Contributor).
From the ICP website:
“Since the 1970s, questions of ethics raised by documentary practice have been central to debates in photography. Perhaps no other photographer has so closely and consistently represented and participated in these debates than Susan Meiselas. An American photographer best known for her work covering the political upheavals in Central America in the 1970s and ’80s, Meiselas’s process has evolved in radical and challenging ways as she has grappled with pivotal questions about her relationship to her subjects, the use and circulation of her images in the media, and the relationship of images to history and memory. Her insistent engagement with these concerns has positioned her as a leading voice in the debate on contemporary documentary practice.”
Aperture is hosting an event on October 8th in conjunction with the republication of Meiselas’ NICARAGUA: June 1978 – July 1979. From the event website:
Susan Meiselas and Alfredo Jaar
Wednesday, October 08, 2008
547 West 27th Street, 4th floor
New York, New York
“Join Aperture for a special evening of conversation between photojournalist Susan Meiselas and artist Alfredo Jaar. Meiselas joined Magnum Photos in 1976 and is renowned for her coverage of the insurrection in Nicaragua and her widely-published documentation of human rights issues in Latin America. Jaar emigrated from Chile at the height of Pinochet’s military dictatorship in 1981. His installations, photographs, films, and community-based projects bear powerful witness to military conflicts, imbalances of power, and political corruption.”
From the BOOK SYNOPSIS on Aperture’s website:
“Originally published in 1981, Susan Meiselas’s Nicaragua is a contemporary classic—a seminal contribution to the literature of concerned photojournalism. John Berger praised the work for its ability to “take us right inside a revolutionary moment…Yet unlike most photographs of such material, these refuse all the rhetoric normally associated with such pictures: the rhetoric of violence, revolutionary heroism, and the glorification of misery.” This new Aperture edition is published on the thirtieth anniversary of the popular insurrection.
Nicaragua forms an extraordinary narrative of a nation in turmoil. Starting with a powerful and chilling evocation of the Somoza regime during its decline in the late 1970s, the images trace the evolution of the popular resistance that led to the insurrection, culminating with the triumph of the Sandinista revolution in 1979. The 2008 edition includes Pictures from a Revolution, a DVD in which Meiselas returns to the scenes she originally photographed, tracking down the subjects and interviewing them about the reality of post-revolution Nicaragua. The DVD booklet features a new interview with Meiselas in which she discusses the history of the project. This book is co-published with Aperture and the International Center of Photography, New York.”
Lastly, the extraordinary KURDISTAN: IN THE SHADOW OF HISTORY by Susan Meiselas has been brought back into print this year from the University of Chicago Press. If you don’t know about this project, visit the website www.akakurdistan.org. This project is yet another example of Susan’s commitment to her subjects and their stories.
From the University of Chicago Press’ website:
“Kurdistan was erased from world maps after World War I, when the victorious powers carved up the Middle East, leaving the Kurds without a homeland. Today the Kurds, who live on land that straddles the borders of Turkey, Iran, Iraq, and Syria, are by far the largest ethnic group in the world without a state.
Renowned photographer Susan Meiselas entered northern Iraq after the 1991 Gulf War to record the effects of Saddam Hussein’s campaigns against Iraq’s Kurdish population. She joined Human Rights Watch in documenting the destruction of Kurdish villages (some of which Hussein had attacked with chemical weapons in 1988) and the uncovering of mass graves. Moved by her experiences there, Meiselas began work on a visual history of the Kurds. The result, Kurdistan: In the Shadow of History,
gives form to the collective memory of the Kurds and creates from scattered fragments a vital national archive.
In addition to Meiselas’s own photographs, Kurdistan presents images and accounts by colonial administrators, anthropologists, missionaries, soldiers, journalists, and others who have traveled to Kurdistan over the last century, and, not to forget, by Kurds themselves. The book’s pictures, personal memoirs, government reports, letters, advertisements, and maps provide multiple layers of representation, juxtaposing different orders of historiographical evidence and memories, thus allowing the reader to discover voices of the Kurds that contest Western notions of them. In its layering of narratives—both textual and photographic—Kurdistan breaks new ground, expanding our understanding of how images can be used as a medium for historical and cultural representation.
A crucial repository of memory for the Kurdish community both in exile and at home, this new edition appears at a time when the world’s attention has once again been drawn to the lands of this little-understood but historically consequential people.”