Although this year’s winners and honorable mentions in En Foco’s annual New Works program employ divergent working processes and represent a multiplicity of ethnic backgrounds and sensibilities, there is a common thread to their considerations. Each of them, one way or another, is addressing issues of personal history and along with this, in most cases, the intertwined concept of identity.
At times, this is manifested very literally in the work, and in other cases more metaphorically, but the sense of the photographer attempting to come to terms with some sense “otherness“ is pervasive.
Whereas Kesha Bruce’s mixed media digital project, “(Re)calling and (Re)telling“ conceptualizes cultural and ethnic identities and histories, Donald Daedalus’s “If I Were Beautiful and Symmetrical Too“ looks at cultural appropriation and issues of beauty in terms of the Western concept of symmetry. The third winner, Adriana Katzew, explores Mexican identity on both sides of the border in “Y se repite“ (And it Repeats Itself), a project which, in its blurring of the past and the present, considers Mexican migrant workers, and their sense of isolation.
The honorable mentions, Wanda Acosta, Myra Greene, Charlie Grosso, and Esther Hidalgo continue in the examination of identity. Acosta does so via an avatar, “Starlette Van Dyke“, in her digital photo journey through virtual worlds, while Greene’s “Character Recognition“ questions what people see when they see her, doing so by looking at ethnographic classification and other categorization techniques, and manifesting her findings through ambrotypes. Less involved with the specifics of identity based in ethnicity, Grosso engages with how we live our lives, and issues of memory and childhood in terms of how they inform who we are. In “Wok the Dog“, she examines the commerce of markets in Taiwan (the source of childhood fears) weighing the livelihood of the vendors against the food source that supports them – the animals who must die for them to survive financially. Finally, in “…En el idioma…“ Esther Hidalgo deconstructs the notion of the family photo in order to understand the notions of cultural memory, and then reclaim cultural history.
It was a pleasure to have the opportunity to look at the work of these photographers, and all of the others who submitted to New Works # 11 – I am grateful to En Foco for the privilege.
-Melissa Harris, Editor in Chief, Aperture