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Bravery: Aperture Photographer Gillian Laub at the Library

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Last night at Mid-Manhattan, maybe to combat the darkness and rain, we were talking about light—the light of the camera, that is. In concert with Aperture Foundation, the acclaimed and venerable American institution dedicated to fine art photography (and publisher of the renowned Aperture Magazine as well as an unparalleled array of photography books) we presented the first of a Photographer@the Library series, with Gillian Laub, talking about Testimony, her recently published book.

Bravery. It’s a term often used to describe soldiers and police and firefighters and others who put themselves in harm’s way to accomplish a greater good. It’s not often used to describe the simple process of living. But it’s the word that I could hear every moment as I looked at Gillian Laub’s haunting portraits of Arab and Israeli young people going about their days – picnicking, playing, sitting, standing, lounging, living – in a sunny land where at any moment, at many moments, tragedy can come calling. It’s a word that could be used to describe Gillian herself, an American Jew who first visited Israel when she was in high school, and who found herself called back to tell a story with a camera—not the story of the conflict but the story of individuals living around it and in it and through it every day.

The story is in the pictures—in the expressions, in the eyes, in the clothes, in the missing limbs. Although Ms. Laub has published photo-essays in The New York Times Magazine (she tells a funny story about wearing the wrong clothes to a shoot with the Israeli Prime Minister), she wasn’t sure this time that her camera—which after all is limited by what the eye can see—could tell the whole story. So she asked each of the people that she photographed to write a statement to accompany the picture—and to approach it as as their last will and testament. Thus, we have Testimony, a vivid interplay of the visual and the voice in framing a portrait of a brave people—each in some way searching for peace.

After the program, Ms. Laub ran down to catch a taxi to Newark. She was flying to Israel with her camera to attend the wedding of one of the injured women she photographed.

Stay on the lookout for further collaborations with Aperture in drawing exceptional photographers to the Library to discuss their work—coming in late Spring 2008!

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