No Translation Necessary

Photography is a visual language which can defy borders, erase boundaries and communicate beyond words. Each repurposed shipping container at Photoville functions as a window and a mirror. Sixty-plus visual storytelling exhibitions provide increased awareness while reinforcing our responsibility as citizens within our collective humanity.

Heart-warming, informative, challenging and innovative this outdoor photo festival is fun and free!!! United Photo Industries has amassed a foundation of sponsors. Digital Silver Imaging was a significant partner and printed images for 7 of the exhibitions.  Here are highlights from my first weekend at the fair.

A particularly special encounter was with Sakurako Kuroda, a returning student from Tokyo. We met when she participated in my Viewfinders workshop at Photoville last year. We arranged to meet and discuss her current work – one project, May I Take Your Picture, is an extension of a street portraiture project she initiated during our class. Developing new and far-flung relationships is a favorite feature of Photoville. Sakurako and I go beyond our spoken language limitations and collaboratively create – we only resorted to Google translate twice.

Jill Enfield’s installation is a layered reflection on the personal, political and historical. Enfield engages current U.S. immigrants in the 19th century wet colloidal process of portraiture. The long exposure time allows her subjects to communicate their personal journey through soulful eye contact while mirroring the experience of past immigrants who were documented in this form of photography 100 years ago. Constructing an interactive installation the glasshouse allows viewers to physically share space with fellow citizens and to metaphorically consider the proverb: “Those who live in glass houses should not throw stones.”

©Inibal Abergil. From the series: N.O.K-Next Of Kin: JOHNSON

Artist and educator, Inbal Abergil, photographs and interviews Gold Star families following their family members death as a result of their recent deployments. She sensitively allows us to bear witness to the indelible impact of loss these families sustain. Pictured here is a portrait of the memorial tattoo on the arms of Tracy Dice-Johnson honoring her wife, Sergeant Donna R. Johnson, killed in Afghanistan. Dice-Johnson fought to have her legal marriage honored and to be recognized as next of kin. Sergeant Johnson’s mother supported this recognition of her daughters widow.

Joy was the mission of ALTAR: Prayer, Ritual and Offerings presented by MFON: Women Photographers of the African Diaspora, curated by Laylah Amatullah Barrayan and Adama Delphine Fawundu. Forty women photographers contributed to a stunning compilation in an exhibition of faith, kinship and strength. Red walls, candles, rose petals, white tulle, cleansing powder and the scent of Florida water surrounded visitors. A sacred, hospitable space fostering fellowship honored fallen sisters, notably Mmekutmfon ‘Mfon’ Essien, the Nigerian photographer who died of breast cancer at 34 years of age and in whose honor this collective is named.

Three Estonian photographers beautifully engage viewers with encounters of portraits of three communities ostracized or overlooked in The Others. Annika Haas, Birgit Püve and Maxim Mjödov are members of the Juhan Kuus Documentary Photo Centre located in Telliskivi Creative City, a community platform for “fragile thoughts and creative projects” which houses 250 creative companies in a reclaimed urban space. Their respectful and intimate portrayals evaporate the distance and denial which act to separate us from these isolated subjects.

J. Sybylla Smith

2 thoughts on “No Translation Necessary

  1. The Photoville event in Brooklyn has become an epic experience for anyone how is part of the human species. Sam and Laura have started with a vision which began as a modest program with 2 containers and grown it to an internationally respected concept that complements DUMBO in a way that is profoundly exhilarating. They should be tributes for their endurance to bring Photoville to what it was and my only concern is how can they top it next year, not that they need to. Thank you for the experience.


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