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Carlson Gallery online series continues with examinations of mortality and social change

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Aaron Arellano
Staff Writer

The photography department held online discussions as part of the Irene Carlson Gallery of Photography Visiting Artist Series, welcoming Chilean photojournalist Constaza Hevia H. and Chisenhale Gallery director and curator Zoe Whitley.

The discussions included inspirational conversations and advice for students in photography program. 

The series welcomed Constaza Hevia H. on April 30 to discuss her photojournalism projects as well as working during the pandemic. She worked for seven years in the Chilean film industry, but decided to turn to photography in order to practice her own individual film and photo projects in the United States. 

“Working in the film industry was a really amazing experience. I really miss it too. Making a movie is a very exhausting process and it’s a really long process,” Hevia. H said. “I think my background in cinema helped me to have a cinematic and narrative style in my work. And to help me understand the importance of sequencing to tell a story in photographs.”

These cinematic elements were captured in her first few projects in the United States, such as her “Personal Journeys I and II” series, which portrays the human condition in candid moments. She photographed San Francisco commuters sitting in public transportation staring out the windows of their buses, seemingly daydreaming and “diving into their inner worlds.” 

Hevia H. then shared a long-term project titled “The Time I Have Left,” to explain the narrative of old age and mortality which usually is not represented in society. 

She said she chose to work on this project after researching how societies in different countries generally avoid the topic of death. Hevia H. returned to Chile and photographed Hugo, the oldest man in the town of Las Cascadas at the time. This project served as a commemoration of his life, which viewers get to see the final glimpses of through her photographs. 

Hevia H. discussed how the sudden eruption of the pandemic caught everyone by surprise. She said she viewed the pandemic as an opportunity to capture raw moments of society. While shooting for the San Francisco Chronicle, she photographed moments in and around funeral homes as well as civilians staring out the windows of their homes, longing for the pandemic to end. 

“Newsrooms didn’t have a protocol for this [pandemic]. They have a protocol for fires and earthquakes but they didn’t have a protocol for this,” Hevia H. said. “We’re fighting an invisible thing that you cannot see. So it is very hard to know what to do.”

Associate Professor of Photography Shannon Benine told Hevia H. her brave work is needed during these times. 

“I feel like a lot of people who are sheltered in place are wondering what the rest of world looks like,” Benine said. “There is something very reassuring coming from the visual stories you’re able to tell and share especially right now.”

Hevia H. responded with encouragement for all to safely practice their creative arts. 

On May 7, Carlson Gallery Coordinator D. Hill welcomed his former colleague, director of the Chisenhale Gallery in London Zoe Whitley, to discuss an award-winning exhibition she curated, “Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power.” The exhibit paid tribute to the contributions of black artists from 1963 to 1983 and explored minimalism and abstraction during this era of social justice movements. The critically acclaimed exhibition debuted in 2017 in London but has since toured all around the world. Whitely’s career-long accomplishments were a focus of the online discussion. 

Hill led the Q&A near the end of the discussion and asked how young photographers could get their future careers off the ground.   

“I do remember my experience with photography as an undergrad and wanting to just go straight into business from that,” Hill said. “I think there’s a lot of accolades in sharing the work versus going into a business and trying to charge people as a service for the images we create photographically.” 

Whitley explained how putting in the extra work will pay off. 

“There’s no one right answer. I think it’s how you want to live your life,” Whitley responded. “For those undergrads that are thinking ultimately they would like a career as a photographer, again, do as much research as you can, read about other artists and photographers, go and see shows…and equally be willing to think this isn’t something that happens to most people overnight.” 

Whitley explained the daunting journey to get such success, considering the cost and time to have these photography shows presented. However, she reminded students, “these things can be a journey.”

The complete series of Carlson Gallery discussion videos can be viewed at ulvphotography.org.

Aaron Arellano can be reached at aaron.arellano@laverne.edu.

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