CHAPEL HILL ó From Jan. 11 to April 6, the Ackland Art Museum at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill will present the first major exhibition of internationally recognized photojournalists who have studied at UNC-Chapel Hill’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication, considered one of the most outstanding and innovative programs in the United States.
“Picturing the World: Carolina’s Celebrated Photojournalists” will feature six award-winning photographers ó Susie Post Rust, Andrea Bruce, Jamie Francis, Janet Jarman, Charles “Stretch” Ledford, and Ami Vitale ó along with 30 images by another group of 25 distinguished photographers.
Curated by Rich Beckman, professor of journalism and mass communication, and Barbara Matilsky, curator of exhibitions at the Ackland Art Museum, “Picturing the World” presents a series of works that address some of the most pressing social issues of our time.
“Even as society becomes saturated with media imagery, individual photographs continue to capture decisive moments,” Matilsky says. “Embedded in our memories are single photographs: iconic images of great tragedy and great joy. We rely on these pictures to create context, add meaning, and enrich our appreciation of the world in which we live.”
“There are common themes within the exhibition that are born from the Carolina experience,” Beckman says. “Dignity, respect, giving people a voice, building trust, and documenting without directing are cornerstones of our teaching.”
In his introductory text for the exhibition, Beckman adds, “These photojournalists have traveled from the neighborhoods where they live and work to the far corners of the world in search of truth, with the hope of educating their readers and the goal of increasing understanding amongst all peoples. A lofty goal for underappreciated practitioners, but without their work, we remain isolated, insular, and stagnant. It is their eyes that help us understand our world.”
An emphasis on documentary storytelling is evident throughout each of these artists’ works.
Andrea Bruce’s coverage of the war in Iraq was part of her 2006 White House Photographer of the Year portfolio. She is a three-time winner of this prestigious award. Working for the Washington Post, Bruce (class of 1995) captures the human side of life as well as the violent upheaval of war that has transformed the physical and cultural landscape of Iraq.
Susie Post Rust’s breathtaking photographs from her numerous National Geographic assignments reveal her special talent for capturing the color and contours of landscape and people. Rust documents rural cultures in lands as diverse as Pennsylvania, Ireland, and Uganda.
The daughter of Rose and Eddie Post of Salisbury, Rust graduated from Salisbury High. After receiving her undergraduate degree at UNC Chapel Hill in 1984, she studied in a graduate program at the University of Missouri.
She worked at the Pittsburgh Press as a photographer for about 31/2 years. She then began to freelance. As part of an outreach program for people living with AIDS, she traveled to Haiti, Romania and Uganda. She also lived with and documented the Bruderhof, an Anabaptist sect whose members live and work communally.
Ami Vitale’s work provides a glimpse into the social life of men and women in Kashmir, a disputed territory between India and Pakistan. The military tension in the region provides an unsettling drama beneath the breathtaking beauty of the Himalayas. Vitale (class of 1993) has received many major awards for her work, including recognition as Magazine Photographer of the Year by the National Press Photographers Association.
Jamie Francis (class of 1985) shares his work from the small African-American community of Deuces in St. Petersburg, Fla. With great warmth and humanity, he brings viewers up close to the personalities of the street in a once-prosperous area now blighted by decades of shifting populations to the suburbs.
For her series of photographs “Crossing: Tale of the Rich North,” Janet Jarman (class of 1989) followed the life of a single family for more than a decade, from when she met them picking through garbage in a Mexican dump, to their work as migrant laborers in Florida, and their lives in Texas. Issues of globalization and its impact on people in developing countries inform her work.
Charles “Stretch” Ledford (class of 1986) has spent more than two decades documenting the human condition throughout the world, much of it for The Commission, the highly respected documentary magazine published by the Baptist Foreign Mission Board. Included in the exhibition are his photographs from Kenya, Mongolia and Arkansas.
The single photographs from 25 photojournalists were selected to represent a diversity of peoples, events, and geography.
From images close to home ó the devastation of the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001 ó to those in far-flung corners of the globe ó Russian children healing from radiation exposure to Chernobyl’s nuclear reactor ó these works were also chosen for their compelling visual interpretation of defining moments in world history and intimate portraits of life.
There will be a public opening for “Picturing the World” from 6 to 8 p.m. Friday, Jan. 11. Barring assignment, the featured photographers are expected to be in attendance.
From 4 to 6:30 p.m. Jan. 13, in the Hanes Auditorium adjacent to the Ackland, a panel discussion ó “The Role of the Photojournalist in Society: Responsibilities and Outcomes” ó facilitated by Beckman will offer insight into the critical issues defining the field of photojournalism. The panel will include most of the featured photojournalists in the exhibition.
At 2 p.m. Jan. 27 in the Ackland Art Museum, Beckman will provide a glimpse of some of the new developments in photojournalism in a presentation called “Multimedia: A Vision for the Future of Documentary Storytelling.”
At 6:30 p.m. February 6, Janet Jarman will present “Long-term Documentary Coverage of Issues Relating to Social and Economic Justice” in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at UNC-Chapel Hill, 11 Carroll Hall.
The Ackland Art Museum has established itself as one of the premier showcases in North Carolina for photography by organizing exhibitions that draw upon its comprehensive collection of 1,500 works, ranging in date from 1843 to 2006, as well as hosting major exhibitions in the field such as Sebastiao Salgado’s Migrations: Humanity in Transition. Picturing the World builds upon this history by gathering the work of photographers who are rooted in UNC-Chapel Hill’s program of ethical documentary storytelling. The local and global content encompassed by the show will connect a wide audience to the human drama behind the image.
The Ackland Art Museum is located on Columbia Street near the Franklin Street intersection in downtown Chapel Hill, on the campus of The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Museum hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Wednesday-Saturday; 1-5 p.m. Sunday; closed Mondays and Tuesdays. Open until 9 p.m. on the second Friday of every month.
The Ackland is closed July 4, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day.
Admission is free.
For more information, go to www.ackland.org or call 919-966-5736.
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