On Monday, Oct. 24, the Palmer Gallery in the College Center began its exhibition of “Victims, Perpetrators, Eyewitnesses and Survivors: Life After War,” featuring photography by Amy Kaslow ’81. A notable alumna, Kaslow has traveled the world for almost 30 years photographing and documenting the lives of those impacted by war and political upheaval, forced to leave their homes for safety and refuge. This exhibit, which will be displayed through November, is complemented by an Artist’s Reception on Thursday, Oct. 27, from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., where Kaslow will be talking about her photography, as well as addressing any questions.
Kaslow’s work starkly captures post-conflict zones all over the world, in the form of portraits of victims, perpetrators, eyewitnesses and survivors. These photographs are accompanied by captions that explore the stories of the featured individuals who have been personally impacted by the conflict, conveying from whence they’ve come, what has transpired since the image was taken and what the future might hold, socially and economically, for these people and their part of the globe.
In Kaslow’s words, “These are the men, women and children moving on after living through one of an array of conflicts that have roared over the span of our lifetime: the Holocaust, the Gulag, the Cold War, Apartheid, the Khmer Rouge killing fields, eight years of hand-to-hand combat between Iran and Iraq, Argentina’s ‘Dirty War,’ ethnic cleansing in the Balkans, the Rwandan genocide, sub-Saharan Africa’s war on HIV-AIDS, gang control in Central America, the Drug War ‘pacification’ of Brazil’s favelas, endless conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.”
She continued, “Fallout and opportunism are defining features of life, post-conflict … This selection of portraits appreciates the integrity of those whom others sought to degrade and the grace of those who rebuild their lives.”
In an interview, Kaslow elucidated what inspired her to pursue the theme of war in this series: “I have been covering at-risk communities in the United States and abroad for my entire professional career as a print, broadcast and online journalist. My subjects have moved through unspeakable degradation, and yet they carry the dignity and determination to live their lives as fully as they can.”
When asked about the message she hopes to send across to her viewers, Kaslow expounded, “We have much to do in this world to help rebuild people, to help entire nations mired in the vestiges of conflict. Our challenges are constant: the absence of the rule of law…the marginalization of [and violence toward] women; children who become part of the lost generation; the bastardization of aid; endemic corruption that corrodes entire nations…I could go on and on…the list is long.”
She further emphasized, “I think students are the essential audience—the people who are bound for fields in health, governance, economic development, entrepreneurship, the arts and beyond. People who are learning about ways they might impact the world. The exhibition has been physically displayed or projected on big screens [across America] and now Vassar, which is treating this show in a most remarkable way. I hope to spur lively conversation about the challenges and perhaps even commitment to be part of the solutions.”
Monica Church, Associate Director of the Palmer Gallery and the installer of this exhibit, mentioned in an interview, “The Palmer Gallery is thrilled that the timing worked out and that the show was available to travel to Vassar. During the fall semester, exhibits range from faculty-based interests to alumnae/i works as well as showcasing work from the greater Vassar Community and beyond. Robert Brigham, Professor of History on the Shirley Ecker Boskey Chair, began the discussion with Amy about the possibility of bringing her exhibition, Life After War to Vassar because it ties in nicely with various curricula–she will be meeting with Brigham’s Human Rights and U.S. Foreign Policy course and his International Human Rights class.”
Church also added, “Amy Kaslow is a photojournalist who is both a good photographer and an excellent storyteller. I am moved by her ability to navigate the spaces in which she works. While observing and listening to people in truly difficult and horrible situations she is able to find and make human connections that she then shares with her viewers.”
Teresa Quinn, Assistant Dean of the College for Campus Activities, talked about her feelings towards Kaslow’s work as well: “This show, ‘Victims, Perpetrators, Witnesses and Survivors’ is important and timely, as the photographs and narrative in this exhibition shares the plight of refugees, displaced by war and in some cases facing slim chances for survival. Amy is extraordinary in her ability to portray the resilience of these individuals, who have been through horrific situations and live in dire conditions, yet they continue to persevere.”
The beauty and relevance of this show is boundless, and Kaslow will expound on her work at the Artist’s Reception on Oct. 27. In relation to what she may address at the reception, Kaslow divulged, “Folks often ask how I can do this work. Isn’t it depressing, they ask? Quite the contrary. It is sobering, of course. But above all, it is inspiring. I am fortunate to capture people who are moving forward, despite the horrors they have experienced in the past and the obstacles that lay ahead. They are the very best of the human spirit.”
So do take a few moments out of your day to stop by the Palmer Gallery and become immersed in the lives and stories of the individuals that Kaslow has so skillfully expressed.