Aaron Siskind, the 20th century photographer best known for his detailed pictures of urban architecture, once said: “Photography is a way of feeling, of touching, of loving. What you have caught on film is captured forever; it remembers little things, long after you have forgotten everything.”
One could easily dismiss that as a random quote shared from person to person via social media. But for marginalized community members whose voices aren’t always heard, the concept of emotional presentation — and more importantly, permanence — through photography takes on significant meaning.
A new exhibition at the Kentucky Center for African-American Heritage aims to captures that idea.
“Yet We Live, Strive and Succeed” is a collection of more than 80 photographs taken by members of the West Louisville and St. Louis communities as part of a project by Photovoice. An initiative originally developed by Dr. Caroline Wang at the University of Michigan’s School of Public Health, Photovoice aims to use photographs as a tool to reflect on community strengths and weaknesses, and then serve as the backbone of plans for moving forward.
This Photovoice exhibition is a collaborative project led by the University of Louisville School of Public Health and Information Science’s (SPHIS) Office of Public Health. IDEAS xLab, a Louisville-based arts organization, curated the photographs.
Trinidad Jackson, an SPHIS senior researcher, wanted to launch a local Photovoice project after collecting images from his hometown of St. Louis, Mo. during the week of the Ferguson protests. After looking over his material, Jackson said he was inspired to contact Louisville community groups to invite them take photographs in their own city that raised questions regarding topics of justice, safety, hope and racial equity.
“The images in this exhibit characterize real life situations that impact all of us in some way, but some of us cannot easily escape the real consequences attached to certain social phenomena such as having dark skin or living in a certain zip code,” Jackson said in a recent news release.
Jackson said data generated from places like police departments and hospital emergency rooms don’t always present a full picture of what its like to be a part of a marginalized community. Ultimately, he hopes the exhibit showcases a narrative that provides “a more comprehensive context — one that includes the community’s truth and power.”
Josh Miller is the co-founder of IDEAS xLab. Miller said the exhibit’s opening is just the beginning of the conversation.
“We will continue thinking about the impact of the real-life situations of people living in West Louisville and all our communities, and how those relate to each other,” he said.
Following the “Yet We Live, Strive and Succeed” show at the Center for African-American Heritage, Miller said some of the featured photographs will be exhibited at libraries and community centers across Louisville.
Then, a research team from U of L’s Office of Public Health Practice plans to analyze data from the project and other community forums to provide actionable information to local leaders and residents. On Sept. 18, the office plans to invite the public to learn about their findings and engage participants in developing solutions.
“Yet We Live, Strive and Succeed” opens Aug. 12 at the Kentucky Center for African-American Heritage. It runs through Sept. 23. More information can be found here.