[update] Go see this… Amanda Koster

“I would study hard so that some day I too would be seen as someone who had succeeded.”

In March and April of 2004 Amanda Koster traveled to Rabuor, Kenya for Rabuor Village Project (RVP) to document through photos, video and stories what 12 million AIDS orphans and widows really look like. Amanda decided that instead of a smattering of photos and statistics she wanted to take more of “a day in the life” of Rabuor hoping this would offer better insight into the HIV/AIDS epidemic in sub-Saharan Africa.

Newspace Center for Photography
1632 SE 10th Ave., Portland, OR 97214

Saturday April 14th 6:30-8:30pm FREE
Amanda Koster slide presentation & lecture with Susan Anstine


I went.

The pictures are full of dignity and pride and hope given a desperate human crisis situation. It is a little against the grain from what one might expect where it would be more likely to see the devastation / disaster and despair.

A lesson for all the “Post Katrina” photo work out there.

Koster described the pictures as being “a day in the life of…” with an attitude of trying to minimize the “othering” of these people and their problems so that we can approach them not as “those poor pitiful people” but as “people just like us” trying to solve a problem… I think that comes across pretty nicely in the photos.

A couple of rambling thoughts stick with me upon a little reflection:

A question put to Koster regarding comparisons of “Fine Art” VS “Documentary” in defining a body of work – is no doubt a tough question to consider but it yielded some insight to Koster’s thinking. I’m not sure it is a good question after all as I feel the definitions for either label have a lot of overlap.

I came away with Koster’s point of view as something about “Fine Art” an “aesthetic moment” and that is of course a moving grey range of criteria – depends upon the viewer, circumstance and context…. But in a basic way it is about beauty – a beautiful moment made visual. Perhaps it is more broadly a moment when the artist / photographer begins to get into a photograph with a series of decisions to set up the circumstances of the photograph. Whereas – documentary might be less about finding or portraying an aesthetic experience and more about the recording of visual material “as-is”.

The question is pretty messy either way… And I’m not sure it is all that useful…

A better comparison was discussed that made more sense to me as to the differences between photojournalism where the photographer is supposed to be “invisible” to the scene and not insert his/herself into the moment. “Pure record”.

That said though, isn’t there almost always some fine art component depending on the selection of the particular moment that is portrayed?


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