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Photographers and That Which is Absent

Winter 2024

December 28th - March 21st


This past Christmas Eve, my family and I watched American Symphony, a documentary on musician and composer, Jon Batiste and his wife Suleika Jaouad. The film covers the two artists during an intense time period; he is struggling to compose a symphony and she is being treated for cancer. Midway through the film, she is undergoing a bone marrow transplant while he is on the road performing - we see him finish a song, look out into the audience and say, "I'd like to dedicate this next one to Suleika." The audience bursts into applause, and then becomes quiet. We see him look down at the keyboard and stop ... and stop ... and stop, and during this long silence you feel the absence. It grows and grows to the point that you wonder if he will, or can, continue.

I was struck by what a profound presence absence can have; how large it can loom in our lives, how it can fill the room until there's nothing else. Art gives us the courage to face that void - it gives us a purpose - a way to translate those silent moments within ourselves and speak to the outside world. To paraphrase Batiste’s Grammy acceptance speech, art finds us in the moment we need it…and that’s true for both the creator and the audience. As I watched the film again on Christmas morning, the power and transformative nature of art settled in me. It's not therapy, but it can be therapeutic as it walks with us through the valley.

The photographers in this showcase have faced that absence with grace. Some have explored memory by creating spaces that allow us to reflect and reframe our own past. Others echo the heartache of those who are no longer with us, or use humor to celebrate those that are. Several have created spaces that have never existed - dreamlike landscapes that speak to a collective unconscious. We also have book reviews, from PhotoBook Journal, covering an excellent group of artists exploring this subject matter.

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