Photo Essay

So the Blind May See

Photo exhibit meditates on darkness we seem to welcome.

By Jordan Patrich 26 Mar 2007 | TheTyee.ca

No Escape, Social Commentary Series, runs from March 15-April 9 at the Vancouver Gallery of Photography at 2060 Pine Street.

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Untitled. Photo by David Campion.

Imagine finding out that you are starting to lose your sight, as is everyone else on Earth. It is hereditary, and each generation is becoming more blind, so that in 100 years all our descendants will be entirely in the dark. And instead of curing the disease, we prolong it. Finding temporary solutions with drugs, technology, or just by lying to ourselves, to give us "short term relief," but always knowing that down the line, the blindness is inevitable. There is No Escape.

In a sense we're already going blind, and the only way we are able to view the world is through our televisions, computers and newspapers. We select what we want to see, and what we want to be true, and in most cases it is already selected for us.

David Campion

David Campion's images question our motives for how we live our day-to-day lives. He repeats the wisdom of Jane Jacobs who said that, "People don't see what's in front of their eyes because they have been told what they should be seeing." His photographs point out that the more we mass-produce, the less we cherish, and the more garbage we leave for future generations to clean up. David Campion writes:

Myths are so powerful that we live and die by them. For me, there are two types of photographs, those that perpetuate myths and those that deconstruct them.

Ten years ago, I had the opportunity to visit an African tribe of nomadic herders. Knowing that I was going to ask them about their culture, I began to think about mine and asked myself the question: Who are we; we whose lives are shaped by pay checks, motorcars, shopping malls and expiry dates?

One night around the fire, a tribesman, his skin glistening ocher red, the color of his cattle, his hair unbound in mourning for his late mother, told me: 'You have no culture.' Sitting in my Levi's and t-shirt I could not find a reply.

With the shepherds, I witnessed lives lived outside the global marketplace, and the experience gave me the eyes to see cracks in the myth of progress."

Brian Howell

What we can't ignore, we hide from. Brian Howell travels around North America finding people who do just this. Howell's subjects are all celebrity impersonators: people who have chosen to dress as someone else, obscuring themselves beneath layers of make up and in some cases plastic surgery. The media is the 21st century's global empire. We are influenced at a very young age by the people we see on TV. When being yourself doesn't work, just look like Paris Hilton to be accepted. Brian Howell writes:

It is us, the society at large, that perpetuates this myth of celebrity. There is a widespread thirst to know everything about the people whose faces we see on a daily basis. We ultimately know more about the intimate details of these celebrities than we do about our own family and friends. Their daily lives are the new soap operas, the new news. Countless television hours are spent dissecting a talk show host's weight gain or weight loss, or the death of someone like Anna Nicole Smith. It's all packaged with titillating imagery and intrigue, murder, drugs, etc. The society at large pays more attention to this world than the one we inhabit.

Elaine Brière

Elaine Brière captures these groups and individuals in their effort to help us see the ebb and flow of history. She gives voice to the struggle of ordinary citizens who are prepared to go up against money and power with only hope and justice on their side. Without these protesters, peacekeepers and awareness groups we have no chance of a cure. Time isn't on our side, and we're almost past the point of no return. Elaine Brière writes:

History is a cautionary tale.

I feel it is important to show the enormous power of the state, and the impressive crowd control arsenal of the police. Our forefathers and mothers, whose names we have now forgotten, sacrificed much for our right to publicly express our discontent.

This right will continue to exist only if people remember to use it.

When 10 million people march to stop a war, and nothing happens, where do we go from there? Will we find an ultimate cure for our creeping blindness? No Escape asks us to open our eyes before our children blame us for the enveloping dark.  [Tyee]

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