Thursday, May 3, 2018

Sylvia Gutierrez reviews Eugene Richards

             I actually had the the opportunity to experience in person the temporary exhibition The Run-On of Time of the American photographer Eugene Richards in the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Missouri. This exhibit covers his career as a photojournalist and documentary photographer from 1968 to the present, the collection includes 146 photographs, 15 books, and selected videos. After refusing the draft of the Vietnam War, graduating from Northeastern University, learning large-format photography alongside Minor White at MIT and later working as a health care advocate in rural Arkansas, Richards finally returned to Dorchester and began to document the changing, racially diverse neighborhood where he was born. Over the past fifty years his oeuvre has consisted of very complicated and controversial topics such as poverty, emergency medicine, drug addiction, cancer, mental illness, the impact of war on veterans and their families, caring for the elderly, and the depopulation of rural America.
           In an interview with James Estrin about this current exhibit, Eugene Richards confessed to the fact the he never thought of his work as a whole to be as rough as it really is, “I’ve lived this life, met these people”. He was never trying to just capture the bad aspects of these neighborhoods, rather he was attempting to reveal something true about their lives and their humanity. Although at times, one may believe that we are at lowest lows, but even then, there is still joy and the good times in which we should not overlook regardless of how simple that one moment is. In Grandmother, Brooklyn, New York, Richards illustrates to the audience those wonderful moments of life.
Furthermore, just like Anthony Francis (whom we had at UTSA as a visiting artist), Richards is very conscious of what it means to go into someone’s house, into their privacy, and capture those very personal moments in pictures as we can see in Sgt. Jose Pequeño with his mother, Nelida Bagley. West Roxbury, Mass and in Crack Annie, New York City. Ultimately, Richards’s life work illuminate personal struggles that might otherwise go unnoticed on the day-to-day, with the hope that his art might spark conversations on how we should care for one another as human beings.

Grandmother, Brooklyn, New York,
Gelatin silver print

Sgt. Jose Pequeño with his mother, Nelida Bagley. West Roxbury, Mass2008
Gelatin silver print
Crack Annie, New York City
Gelatin silver print


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