Hunger gets a face, voice in art/audio exhibit opening Saturday at University of Saint Francis: Photographer Michael Nye's exhibit shows people's resilience
Aug 26, 2010 (The News-Sentinel - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
Photographer Michael Nye has given a face and a voice to the issue of hunger in the United States.
Many faces and voices, actually. Nye spent 4 1/2 years traveling the country photographing and making audio recordings of people who were experiencing, or had experienced, hunger.
The result is an exhibit of 50 people's stories, told in their own words and accompanied by Nye's photographs. "About Hunger and Resilience: Photographs and Audio Stories by Michael Nye" opens Saturday at the University of Saint Francis. The exhibit is brought to Fort Wayne through a collaboration with Community Harvest Food Bank.
Nye's relationship with the food bank actually began when he was working on the hunger project. A Community Harvest staffer, Rebecca Aurand, attended a conference where Nye spoke about his project.
"She was so impressed with his past exhibits, she got very excited and struck up a long conversation," said Claudia Johnson, Community Harvest's communications and advocacy manager. Aurand invited Nye to come to Fort Wayne, promising she would line up some clients for him to interview and photograph.
So he did. About two years ago, Nye spent a week here, meeting with about six clients. Two became part of the exhibit.
"We don't know who they are," Johnson said. Nye uses only first names in the exhibit to respect the subjects' privacy.
Nye, speaking by phone from his hometown of San Antonio, said he enjoyed his time in Fort Wayne, and praised Community Harvest, which he described as an "amazing food bank." He traveled much of the country and took his time with the project, spending two to three days with each person he interviewed and photographed. Each photo is accompanied by four to six minutes of the subject talking. Headphones are used for the audio.
Told from firsthand experience and from their own points of view, the stories are powerful, Nye said. "I see the people in this project as teachers." About half the people in the project were no longer hungry at the time of the interview, but had experienced hunger in their lives.
"Every story is unique," Nye said. Homelessness, illness, accidents, mental illness, natural disasters -- all contribute to hunger. Yet many people fail to see it.
"Hunger in this country really is very invisible," he said. "In this country of abundance, it seems impossible children and others would ... be so hungry they would cry or not want to live."
Despite food banks such as Community Harvest, Nye said people are still going hungry, including in rural areas and small towns.
"Not everybody lives next to a food bank, and many people live in isolation," he said. As for people who argue that food banks contribute to hunger, "those arguments totally fall apart if you really listen to the reality of people's lives," he said.
The photos tell a story just as the narratives do. Nye takes all his photos in black and white using an 8-by-10 view camera, meaning the negatives are 8-inches-by-10 inches. Using the film camera is a slow process, but Nye says "it's a beautiful instrument."
The results literally put a face on hunger. "The pictures are ... haunting," Johnson said. "You can read so much in these faces."
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