“Where We Live: A North Carolina Portrait” Photography Exhibit

(Clockwise from top left): Photographs by Jennifer Stratton, Amanda Berg, Rachel Boillot, and Alex Harris

Clockwise from top left: Photographs by Jennifer Stratton (Halifax County, North Carolina, 2015); Amanda Berg (Ginger Phelps at work in Massey Hill, North Carolina, 2015); Rachel Boillot (Jackson County, North Carolina, 2014); and Alex Harris (Juke joint, Camden, North Carolina, 1972).

A documentary photography project on housing and living conditions in the state—Where We Live: A North Carolina Portrait—features the 1971–72 work of acclaimed documentary photographer Alex Harris, a Duke professor and cofounder of the school’s Center for Documentary Studies, and contemporary work by three of his former students, all graduates of Duke’s MFA in Experimental and Documentary Arts program: Rachel Boillot, Jennifer Stratton, and Amanda Berg. Listen to a radio interview with Harris and Boillot’s appearance on the WUNC radio show The State of Things.

Where We Live: A North Carolina Portrait Exhibit
March 5–June 26, 2016
April 28, 4–7 p.m.; Reception and Artists’ Talk

Rubenstein Photography Gallery, Duke University West Campus
411 Chapel Drive, Durham, North Carolina

Where We Live has its roots in an assignment of Harris’s from the 1970s, through a grant from Duke’s Sanford School of Public Policy, to photograph substandard housing and living conditions in North Carolina. In 2014, Harris turned to Berg, Boillot, and Stratton to tackle the same broad assignment, choosing their own visual, geographic, and thematic approaches. With funding from The Annenberg Foundation of Los Angeles, Berg made portraits of former factory workers, women whose jobs disappeared as textile, furniture, and tobacco factories closed across the state; Boillot photographed migrant workers who harvest Christmas trees and pick crops in the eastern and western parts of the state; and Stratton explored a group of counties whose low-income neighborhoods have experienced the greatest burden of environmental damage across generations.

Harris writes, “Our photographs are separated by forty-four years. By exhibiting our pictures at the Rubenstein Library gallery, we hope to show some of the ways in which the State of North Carolina has changed. Our different styles and approaches to photography also hint at how the practice of documentary photography has developed during this same period. But at least one thing remains constant. Photography then and now allows us to see the human dimensions of policy issues, to connect issues to individual lives and—if as photographers we have been successful—to see and feel something of our common humanity.”

The exhibition is sponsored by Duke University’s Center for Documentary StudiesArchive of Documentary Arts at the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Forum for Scholars and PublicsMFA in Experimental and Documentary Arts program, and Sanford School of Public Policy. Project funding was provided by Anne Reynolds Forsyth, the Annenberg Foundation, and the Duke Council for the Arts. All photographs will be preserved in the Archive of Documentary Arts.

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