at the george eastman house

While in Rochester, NY, over Labor Day weekend for my cousin’s wedding, I had the opportunity to go to the George Eastman House gallery. It was the final weekend of an Ansel Adams exhibit. I had seen one of his exhibits when some of his work was displayed at the Harry Ransom Center on the campus of The University of Texas at Austin. The exhibit in Rochester was bigger and more thorough than the one in Austin and, as always, it is great to see master photographs up close.

The images that stuck with me from my time at the Gallery, however, were by Robert Polidori of Chernobyl after the nuclear disaster and New Orleans after hurricane Katrina. What struck me of these large-scale photographs was the similarity of the decay–and how the decay has completely redefined the spaces themselves:

Stairwell in school #5, 2001

Stairwell in school #5, Pripyat, 2001

6539 Canal Street, New Orleans, March 2006

6539 Canal Street, New Orleans, March 2006

The gallery also had a stunning piece from Johannes Hepp’s disturbing and fascinating series, The Days After: A Topography of Terror:

tokyo, march 20 1995

Tokyo, March 20, 1995

Hepp “searches out places around the world which have been devastated by terror attacks, and which are indelibly ingrained in the public imagination through global media saturation. He records people going about their daily business in these previously sabotaged areas. The focus is always on life afterwards and everyday risk-taking. . .”  The above photograph was taken soon after the sarin nerve gas attack that killed 12 and injured 5511.  His panoramic photographs (in which he merges multiple images into one seamless image) of spaces that have been previously altered by both horrific events and saturated news coverage, ask us to consider how we define and how we are defined by the spaces in which we use, work, and live.

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