Monday, December 7, 2009


It started snowing late this afternoon and I almost decided to stay in and turn on the gas fireplace, but I coaxed myself out to hear Susan Meiselas talk about her work at SFAI. I'm so glad I did, because I wasn't that familiar with all she had done and it was fascinating, disturbing and stimulating all at once. There was a decent size crowd there and I know Lucy Lippard was there because Susan made mention of it. Also Mary Charlotte from KSFR was there with her dog. Anyway I'm getting off the point.

I was astonished at the work she'd done. She's won practically every award a photographer can win, including the MacArthur (seems I'm seeing a lot of MacArthur winners lately.) She spent a great deal of time documenting the insurgency in Nicaragua in the late 70's, and those pictures were very strong and also horrifying in some cases. Then she went back there 10 years later to find those people in the photographs and documented that in a film. Finally she recently did a project with the cultural association in Nicaragua, where she printed the photos digitally on fabric as large murals and placed them where they had originally been taken, so people could respond to them. She talked about the responsibility of the documentary photographer and about memory and how photographs show the passage of time in their breakdown, and how past and present can be brought together by documentation.

She's done other work with the Kurdish people, documenting the genocide that took place under Saddam Hussein. More recently she has created an archive of photos from Kurdistan, making copies of people's personal photos and researching who was in them. Many of this photographic material was hidden away for years. There was a lot to think about. I wondered how she can continue to believe in the inherent goodness of mankind- probably she doesn't. As I was leaving, I was invited to come to the dinner afterwards, but I decided to go home. I wanted to think about what I had seen. Besides, I'm wussy about driving in the snow despite my new tires, which so far are all they are supposed to be.

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