By Max Blue
Special to The Examiner
Photographs themselves are windows into the past, but they can still represent a contemporary moment and relevant topic. Documentation serves representation as much as it does posterity.
SF Camerawork’s annual juried exhibition, FORECAST, aims to showcase the current moment and trajectory of the art form. This year’s selection, on view at Gallery 211 in Minnesota Street Project, features the work of six American artists working in a range of photographic styles, tackling themes of family, history and identity.
Katina Alexopulo’s series “Los Muertos Nunca Mueren” recounts the artist’s trip to Texas following the death of her great-grandmother. In “Her favorite shade…,” 2020, an image of a home shrine to Our Lady of Guadalupe is juxtaposed with a picture of a hand holding an open tube of lipstick. Ashley Ross’s series “10/27/03” is concerned with family and faith also. “Polaroid of my mom over Passages 1,” 2021, is a collage featuring a polaroid of the artist’s mother and a page from the bible, “Revelations 8:12.” Both pieces give us partitas of unique individuals, while showing faith as deeply ingrained in family tradition.
Jamie Robertson’s “Big Mama’s House in Egypt Community, Centerville, TX,” 2017, is an excerpt from her series “Charting the Afriscape of Leon County, Texas,” which documents the African diaspora throughout the South. The picture shows a manufactured home at night, the light in the windows illuminating the eerie nighttime beyond. As an image of home, it’s rife with metaphors of transition and displacement.
Christian K. Lee’s series “Armed Doesn’t Mean Dangerous” documents Black gun owners in various settings, in an attempt to contribute to a more “balanced archive of images of African Americans with firearms,” Lee writes. “Aaron Banks Jr and Sr, Cedar Park, TX,” 2021, shows the titular father and son simultaneously embracing both each other and a rifle. It’s a surprisingly touching image of familial bonding, complicated by the presence of an object with violent associations. The fact that the two are dressed identically deepens the visual bond between them.
Trent Bozeman’s series “A People Called Elaine” is similarly documentarian. Bozeman photographed Black children in Elain, AR, the site of the 1919 massacre which was the single deadliest racial confrontation in state history. “A majority of the children have never heard of the tragedy that occurred,” Bozeman writes. In “Waiting for An Echo,” 2020, two children stand back-to-back, their arms linked in a sculptural gesture at once playful and sinister.
Nykelle DeVivo’s “mami wata,” 2018, is a large, black-and-white print of a figure posed dramatically in an onrush of ocean surf, their hands lifting the hem of a gauzy dress. The figure’s facial features are obscured but their eyes pierce the composition arrestingly. DeVivo’s work is concerned with representing the space between the physical and spiritual worlds. “I photograph to bear witness of God as a reminder,” Devivo writes, “as prayer, and as a reflection of self.”
It is this sentiment of witnessing that FORECAST 2021 achieves on the whole.
While the gallery exhibition presents singular selections from larger series by each artist, SF Camerawork also offers an extended version online, with more contributions from each artist. This year’s on- and offline offerings make a strong case for photographers as witness to their communities and themselves, for the power of photography to make one visible.
IF YOU GO
Where: Gallery 211, Minnesota Street Project, 1275 Minnesota St,
When: 11 a.m.-5:30pm, Tuesday-Saturday through Jan. 4, 2022,online through May 1, 2022.
Contact: (415) 243-0825, minnesotastreetproject.com