O'Shaughnessy Dam © Ansley West River
FOCAL POINT surveys the landscape of emerging photographers and selects three talented, driven, and noteworthy artists to highlight each quarter. All FOCAL POINT photographers receive mentoring from Crusade for Art to think about their work, their target audience, and how to best engage them.
Rita Koehler made « Rite of Ordinary : Interior Indiana ». « It's a conceptual, photographic documentary that examines the domestic lives of same-gendered couples living in Northern Indiana. Through the assemblage of things that constitute a home, viewers are invited to enter into and inhabit the spaces of these couples’ portraits—to work, to speculate, and to encounter small confrontations with respect to the current paradigm of “normal” regarding gender, sexuality, love, home, family, and relationships. In the cities where these images were taken and where they are being exhibited in homes for sale to be stumbled upon by unsuspecting home-buyers; projected onto the exterior facades of local civic buildings and universities; and exhibited on yard signs around city neighborhoods, the work counters the social alienation many of these couples have experienced within their own community. I use the built environment as part of my art practice in dealing with these social relationships. Like community murals, the images act not as hostile provocations but as a means for people to come together and talk about important social issues within their communities. Moreover, the subject matter of same-gendered couples occupying these spaces where their presence in the past has been hidden becomes all the more compelling. »
© Rita Koehler
© Rita Koehler
« Back of the Yards » by Megan E. Doherty.
« Beyond the headlines of the notoriously high gun and gang violence in Chicago, there is the debilitating loss of human capital in the ravaged communities of the South and West Sides. For the last 20 months, I have been documenting the efforts of one transformative figure who has worked to help people in the Back of the Yards reinvest in themselves and their neighborhood.
Jim Fogarty, known affectionately as "Brother Jim," wears a hand-sewn habit made out of scraps of denim, now tattered after nearly 30 years of use. That's how long he's been traversing the dangerous streets by foot, carrying only rosary beads to pass out - that, and offering prayers, and maybe a little hope. He's the only remaining member of a small street ministry, Brothers and Sisters of Love, that tends to those involved in - and victimized by - gang violence and urban poverty. I wanted to do more than show how this can be hell - which it surely is. I wanted to show how these people struggle through this hell trying to achieve redemption.
By now, the residents largely all know who he is and often come running when they see him coming down the street or call out from their windows, asking him to pray for them. Once upon a time, he stood between warring gangs shooting at each other, risking his life. Now, they ask him for rosaries.
Through him I have gained not just intimate access to these people, but a rare and unique vantage point: the Back of the Yards neighborhood (which takes its name from its proximity to the old Union Stock Yards, former hub of the U.S. meatpacking industry) is usually just another overlooked and stereotyped poor minority area of Chicago. But through Brother Jim, we can see the community and its residents through his eyes, which challenges our default perspective. How are they trying to give up the life of the street? How does he inspire them and give them hope that their lives can be better? That they can be better? How are they trying to achieve 'redemption'? What does 'redemption' look like for them? »
© Megan E. Doherty
© Megan E. Doherty
Seven Rivers by Ansley West Rivers.
« I am creating a series of photographs on the watersheds of seven rivers, the Colorado, Missouri/Mississippi, Columbia, Rio Grande, Tuolumne, Altamaha and Hudson. The project looks at the complicated state of fresh water across the United States.
I recently moved from San Francisco, CA to Darien, GA, a small coastal town at the mouth of the Altamaha River. Leaving behind the dry and thirsty California coast for the lush, wet South was shocking to all my senses. This change instigated my investigation into the physical and psychological landscapes of rivers.
While still a resident of San Francisco, I made the 186-mile pilgrimage to Hetch Hetchy Valley to visit the Tuolumne River and the O’Shaughnessy Dam. I was immediately reminded of John Muir’s long battle against the damming of the valley. The battle for this river is the same in many ways as it was in the 1900s. We are on the brink of experiencing another loss as California’s water is disappearing, making 2014 the driest year on record.
The wet weather of the East Coast can be deceiving. My new home sits at the mouth of the Altamaha River where I view my water source daily. The Altamaha River does not carry the fame of the Tuolumne, as its beauty and name largely remain unknown but its struggles are common to all rivers. The Tuolumne and the Altamaha, like so many rivers across the world, are experiencing changes in water levels, temperature, wildlife and saltwater intrusion. The debate over water can only truly begin if we can connect ourselves to the rivers that sustain us.
The photographs are not aimed at documentation but rather the depiction of unseen changes occurring on all rivers. The constructed images I make on each negative show the possibilities and effects of industry, global warming, agriculture, power and the unquenchable demand for fresh water. We stand at a precipice in the history of water. How we approach the health and use of our rivers now will determine the life span of fresh water.
The project will create a portrait of the seven rivers that will depict the journey each river takes and the struggles bound to every drop of water »
CypressTrees © Ansley Wast River
Rayonier Paper Plant © Ansley West River