In the past six months, somehow I’ve become a crier. I used to let stories I wrote at work wash over me, but now I’m forever fumbling for the tissues. One of my news editors even told me recently that she can tell it’s a good story if she hears a sniff from my desk. I’m not sure that’s the sort of work reputation I want to have, but being human doesn’t hurt either.
I bring this up because tonight, for the first time on todaysthedayi, I left an activity pretty upset. Dribbly nose and everything.
The evening started off quite well. I headed back to Brooklyn Bridge Park for Photoville – a fantastic two week photography exhibit held in storage containers by the East River. I loved the way it was set up, particularly against that gorgeous skyline.Each unit had a different theme or was the result of a different competition. Some images resembled surrealist paintings, others were grimy, others used techniques I’d not seen before and some made me laugh out loud. Here are some of my favourites:
But then I ventured into the darkest corner of the exhibition where there was a container about animals in zoos. Within a glance or two, they had me.
I can’t deal with anything to do with animal suffering and I’ve long been against (the majority of) zoos. The detail of these images, which were all by Gaston Lacombe, was just fantastic. He presented the animals in such a human way. The heartbreak, boredom or exasperation on their faces as they languished in dirtied enclosures… ugh.
I managed to pull myself together to go to another container about Hurricane Sandy’s victims. This one was accompanied with audio interviews – and their stories of heartbreak, loss and strength were just… gaahhh.
Finally, I moved on to a container filled with images based on the wishes of inmates in solitary confinement. The prisoners had been told they could ask for a picture of anything and photographers would create it for them. The results were hilarious and sad and beautiful and inventive.
Some asked for images of specific streets they had passed every day while they were free, others wanted religious images, others were desperate for pictures of their children, while one guy wanted a picture of JLo’s butt. One of the most touching was a guy who asked for an image of his late mother superimposed on a massive mansion with a Hummer and piles of cash in the foreground. It was just so sad that this is presumably how he wanted to remember his mother – happy and wealthy – and yet I assume this image was very far from the truth. It was just so tragic.
Of course I understand the need for prisons but solitary confinement is beyond my comprehension. Some of those men are in there for decades. Some haven’t seen sunlight since the 80s. I signed postcards to send to the governor to end the practice and then left to find a tissue.
I was so moved by the exhibitions tonight – and I don’t think anything shows their effectiveness more than that. I had such a reaction – and it was so immediate – and it inspired me to want to change things. I can’t imagine a better use for any art form.
Thankfully it was dark outside those containers and I could scurry to the subway with my face hidden – thinking about how I’m going to save every single one of those enclosed animals and humans.
(It’s not all sad and I would really recommend getting down there this weekend if you can. Photoville is being held tomorrow and this weekend before it closes until next year. It’s free and at Pier 5 at Brooklyn Bridge Park.)