Exhibited at the Euphrat Museum of Art, Fall 2018
Medium: Digital photographs on rice paper, mounted on acrylic with fiberglass and polyester resin
#allworkhasdignity is a collaboration between Sal Breiter and Jennifer Myhre, along with contributing photographer-students from De Anza College: Zoe Weitzman, Karina Corona, Gaurav Kumar, Vianney Sanchez, Karen Martinez, Estephan Tumamao, Lucia Martinez, Kimberly Mckenzie, Melissa Favorite, Lucia Martinez, and Diana Rueda. We make art because we love making things. We make art because we are brokenhearted about the state of the world and making art is how we alchemize that. As consumers of art, we believe in the power of art and stories to generate questions, challenge thinking, and produce empathy or new insights. #allworkhasdignity is an ongoing series that is part of the 1500 Stories project. 1500 Stories is a large scale collaborative art and digital storytelling project about economic inequality in the U.S. You can learn more about the project at 1500stories.org. Volunteer storygatherers from Silicon Valley, Wisconsin and New Jersey have already contributed nearly 600 interviews about the lived experience of economic inequality using the 1500 Stories question bank. Similarly volunteer photographers have also contributed hundreds of documentary photographs to the project. Twelve of those photographs that focus on work are featured here. Inspired by a data visualization of economic inequality in the U.S. that would need to reach 1500 stories tall--that’s roughly five miles--to capture the richest 1%, the 1500 Stories project uses windows as medium and metaphor. These windows ask us to consider, in a political and economic context marked by extreme inequality in income, wealth, working conditions and respect that maps along racial and gender lines, the notion that all work has dignity. In ongoing collaboration with volunteers and community groups, the 1500 Stories project will continue to create new windows beyond these original twelve.
On exhibit in the Justice for All? show
February 1 through March 23 2017 at the Euphrat Museum of Art.
Who(se) Shares? is a collaborative piece that incorporates documentary photographs taken by students at De Anza College that visualize economic inequality in the U.S. The shape of the image is meant to evoke the distribution of population and wealth in the U.S. This piece is part of a larger public art and digital storytelling project I direct about economic inequality in the U.S. called 1500 Stories. To read more about the Justice for All? exhibit, please see:
1893 is an ongoing project that explores the joys and sorrows of modernity. Sociologists like Anthony Giddens describe modernity as a set of historical transformations in both social structure and culture that include the rise of the nation-state, industrialization, the spread of capitalism, mass democracy as well as a cultural orientation toward the future and a belief in "progress." Other sociologists add urbanization, mechanization, bureaucratization and the increased movement of people, things and information as key elements of modernity. Max Weber saw rationalization as the central process of modernity. In a rationalized world, efficiency, predictability and quantification are highly valued. Weber warned that rationalization across all sectors of society would lead to the "disenchantment" of the world.
1893 explores the co-existence of rationalization and enchantment. In 1893, the first ferris wheel debuted at the World's Fair, also known as the Columbian Exposition, in Chicago. Chicago in the 1890s was the eye of the storm of modernity, knee deep in industrialization, labor disputes, immigration waves, and the rise of the social sciences. Consider also these events that occurred in 1893: the U.S. imperialist takeover of Hawaii, a stock market crash that precipitated the depression of the 1890s, the first open heart surgery, the writing of the song "America the Beautiful," the first car built on U.S. soil, Gandhi committing his first act of civil disobedience, New Zealand becoming the first nation to grant women the right to vote, Thomas Edison's building of the first motion picture studio, and Georgia's becoming the first state to pass anti-lynching legislation. The ferris wheel has always been a personal symbol of enchantment to me and in this series it points to the joys of modernity. In the images, it is superimposed upon more ambivalent symbols of modernity. The medium I chose for this first round of images is cyanotype. One of the earliest forms of photography, cyanotype is something that I can do in my own kitchen as I make dinner. Yet, before that very hands-on low-fi process can begin, the images start life as digital files which can be taken in large quantities and handled with rational efficiency through software. 1893 is a work in progress, as I plan to explore many other symbols of modernity.
The Shape of Things
Despite my training as a sociologist and my love for documentary forms, I find myself surprisingly attracted to formalism. This series explores the literal shape of things. I love this line from New York Times photographer Bill Cunningham: "I eat with my eyes." I keep a gratitude journal and one of the unintended consequences of keeping such a journal is that you find yourself looking for things to be grateful for. This series operates in a similar way for me--it asks me to be more mindful about what I'm seeing, to pay attention to the shape of things.