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Event Celebrates Duke/CDS Alum Eric Gottesman’s First Photo Book, “Sudden Flowers”

"I want to be a mechanic so I can fix things."—Tinasae Muluneh. From "Sudden Flowers by Eric Gottesman.

“I want to be a mechanic so I can fix things.”—Tinasae Muluneh. From Sudden Flowers by Eric Gottesman.

On February 26, the Center for Documentary Studies is delighted to host the U.S. launch of Duke University/CDS alum (’98) Eric Gottesman’s first book, Sudden Flowers. Since 1999, when he was a fellow with Duke’s Hart Leadership Program, Gottesman has collaborated with Sudden Flowers, a collective of children living in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia—mostly AIDS orphans—to reimagine the harsh realities they experienced on the streets and in their homes in the wake of their parents’ deaths—including the trauma of grief, physical abuse, and AIDS-related stigma. Together they explored the possibilities of image making as a tool for self-expression, healing, and teaching others. The children, Gottesman said in a recent review in the New Yorker blog Photo Booth, “invented their own mythology, their own language to describe their lives: photographic fantasies as real, as immediate and as visual as memories.”

Reception, talk, and book signing with Eric Gottesman
Thursday, February, 26, 2015, 6–9 p.m.
Center for Documentary Studies
1317 W. Pettigrew St., Durham, North Carolina 

Over the fifteen-year span of the project, Sudden Flowers and Gottesman produced exhibitions, short films, and installations in Africa, the United States, and Europe. In Sudden Flowers, this work comes together for the first time as a book, composed of photographs by Gottesman and the children in the collective, as well as their essays and letters, family stories and autobiographies, and dreams for the future.

At the February 26 event, 7 p.m., Gottesman will present photographs and give a brief history of Sudden Flowers, the project and the book, and then will be joined by Sudden Flowers collaborators Biniyam Mesfin and Yamrot Alemu in a conversation moderated by CDS cofounder and longtime instructor, photographer Alex Harris. A book signing will follow.

As a student at Duke, Gottesman took his first photography class with Alex Harris, studied Literacy Through Photography with Wendy Ewald, was a fellow with Duke’s Hart Leadership Program, and received a CDS John Hope Franklin Student Documentary Award. Gottesman’s early images from Ethiopia were featured in the CDS Book 25 Under 25: Up-and-Coming American Photographers in 2003.

Eric Gottesman was a Fulbright fellow in the arts and has received awards and residencies from Creative Capital, the Magnum Foundation, Artadia, the Aaron Siskind Foundation, apexart, the Open Society Foundation, Light Work, and the Massachusetts Cultural Council, among others. He is a Faculty Fellow at Colby College and has taught at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design, Amherst College, the International Center for Photography, the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, and conducted workshops in Lebanon, Jordan, and Ethiopia.


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