Photoville, a photography festival that takes place both in person and online, has reached its 10th year. The event brings public art installations to the people of New York while addressing principles of cultural equity, inclusion, and diversity. By activating public spaces, amplifying the work of visual storytellers, and working with photographers and curators from all backgrounds, Photoville aims to "nurture a new lens of representation.”
For photo lovers in New York, it’s an event where you can listen to your heroes talk about what’s behind the scenes of a project, listen to a photographer speak about covering a war or climate disaster, discover new artists, and see iconic images up close and in person. The festival, which used to be held in shipping containers converted into small galleries, now features images printed on banners outdoors for passersby to take in at their leisure.
Here are a few of the exhibitions that we're most excited to interact with this year.
Michelle V. Agins, who we included in a recent list of Black photographers who paved the way for the world we live in now, has been a staff photographer at the New York Times for over three decades. Originally from Chicago, she was the company’s second-ever Black woman photographer on staff after Ruby Washington. She won a Pulitzer for the 2001 series “How Race Is Lived in America” and has been nominated for a second.
Witness life in the Democratic Republic of the Congo through the works of 10 photojournalists, who each bring a unique perspective to the hardships of life in rural and urban parts of central Africa. Curated by award-winning photojournalist Finbarr O’Reilly, the collection of images brings light to the “human, social, and ecological challenges that the Democratic Republic of Congo faces today.” For more on this, check out our earlier piece.
Meryl Meisler is a photographer who, for over 30 years, was a teacher in New York City Public Schools. This exhibit, which looks back at her until recently unpublished work taken in Bushwick in the 1980s, will surely be a trip back in time. We spoke with Meisler for our weekly photo newsletter about her most recent book, New York Paradise Lost, which the Photoville show also pulls from.
Working on the book helped her stay grounded during the last year and the difficult time the world was going through, she said. “I hope it's uplifting to everyone else as well. The 1970s was a bad period in New York. People were running away from the city, and look what happened: Artists moved into all these empty spaces. New music arose. A neighborhood like Bushwick that went through such hard times, so much history, it has transformed as well. There's a lot to be said about transformation and gentrification, but 40 years later, people want to live there.”
Presented by the Atlantic and featuring artists we love, like Alanna Fields and Hannah Price, Inheritance looks to “fill the blank pages of Black history” through reporting and data. I have been a fan of Alanna’s work since her days at Pratt. Her captivating collages of queer Black people are reimagined for the Atlantic’s series, which frames historical figures and enslaved people in a thoughtful and meaningful way. Price, who lives and works in Philadelphia, is adept at looking at cityscapes and landscapes that we interact with daily and bringing to the surface the history and racial politics imbued in the environment.
"Goodbye Salad Days: Kevin Faces Adulthood"
Who isn't having some form of existential crisis these days? These images — which take a satirical view on modern adulthood, as told by a very cute hamster — are a delight and make big questions about what we are all doing here suddenly seem laughable, if not manageable. Traer Scott is well known for her work with animals, and this project is also available as a book for those who are unable to see the exhibition in New York.
According to legend, tightrope walking was once a common practice as a means to get around the rugged Caucasus mountains in Dagestan. Who knows if this is exactly true, but the residents of the region have surely turned it into an art form. Photographer Jérémie Jung has documented the remaining masters and current practitioners who make the balancing act look easy.
For a sampling of young artists, the International Photo Festival Leiden will share pieces by 15 photographers early in their careers. Every year since its founding in 2013, the Dutch festival has a jury select top works for presentation in a six-week, open-air event in the Netherlands. IPFL’s mission — “a photo festival without borders and boundaries” — can be seen in the backgrounds of the participants as well as the types of photography presented, with artists from Belgium, Sweden, and beyond.
Jaida Grey Eagle is an Oglala Lakota artist based in St. Paul, Minnesota, who is currently a Report for America fellow with the incredible Sahan Journal, where she covers communities of color within the state. Last year, we included her in our roundup of Indigenous artists you should know about. Grey Eagle’s thoughtful portraiture captured so much that happened in Minnesota over the last year, including the protests after the murder of George Floyd. Rooted, her show at Photoville, looks at the last few years through the lens of cyanotypes, which include plant life from the Indigenous lands where the racial justice demonstrations occurred.
Featuring Gabriella Angotti-Jones, Stephanie Mei-Ling, and Danielle Scruggs and curated by Tara Pixley, the show Rebel Vision takes the white gaze and burns it up. Noting that there has been a “radical shift” in the last few years with how the media and viewers have valued Black vision and voices, they aim to spread and share a new vision, told by photographers who are finally getting their due attention.
Ugandan documentary photographer Esther Ruth Mbabazi brings out the beauty in her subjects with a creative direction that is meant to bring joy — not just for those who view her photos, but specifically for the seven women she photographed. Mbabazi’s goal was to uplift a group of women with disabilities living in the Gulu region of northern Uganda who make up the Gulu Women with Disabilities Union. Each woman photographed played a collaborative role in her portrait by designing her own dress and posing against a backdrop of her own artwork. The results are vibrant and focus the attention on their individual humanity.
I will look at anything that Hannah Reyes Morales deems worthy of documenting; the Philippine-based photographer is that talented. This series, called Living Lullabies, is deceptively simple, showing women singing to their babies, but it starts to unravel the tactics that mothers often use to strive to create a sense of safety in an increasingly uncertain world, where they are frequently disempowered.