Picture the past and explore the present
"El Gigante de Paruro y Victor Mendivil, Cusco" by Martin Chambi pictures a tall indigenous man named Juan de la Cruz Sihuana and a man named Victor Mendivil. Picture courtesy of Ceyda Baysal.

Picture the past and explore the present

Art is a medium for expression with many different forms. Art can be a poem, a painting, even a photograph, among many other things, and all these pieces symbolize a movement within the artist. Whether the piece reflects an experience of the artist, visually explains thoughts and emotions, or is made simply to be admired for its beauty, art has meaning.

UMBC’s Albin O. Kuhn Library Gallery is showcasing Our People, Our Land, Our Images. This is a photography exhibit displaying the works of artists native to North America, Peru, Iraq and New Zealand.

Part of the beauty of this exhibit is the variation. All the pieces have individual characteristics that touch each viewer in a different way. Each photo has a different purpose and evokes a unique emotion, and yet, this collection of art effortlessly meshes together and represents a wide range of artists with diverse backgrounds.

Martin Chambi, a member of the Quechua from Peru, featured a photo titled “El Gigante de Paruro y Victor.” He focused his photography on his culture. He was inspired to capture the realism in his community. He found art in everyday characteristics of his environment including people, buildings and other inanimate objects.

Chambi publicized his culture, turning the everyday parts of his life into art. He invited his people and members of other cultures to look at Peru in a different perspective. Although drained of color, his photographs present a unique reality that interests the audience and encourages them to explore the culture’s history and lifestyle.

Bertha Felix Campigli contributed two photos to the exhibit titled “Lairds Landing” and “A View of Our Home.” Campigli was raised in Tomales Bay, California. However, she and her family were of Coast Miwok descent.

Campigli’s grandmother lived in Lairds Landing, and after her grandmother had passed, her grandfather and uncle took over her house until 1955 when a local rancher claimed the land to be his. This house carried history beyond documentation, but because there was no physical proof that the house had belonged to her grandparents, they lost it in a trial.

Campigli’s grandmother’s house in Laird Landing stands as a symbol of her heritage and ancestors. The history behind that house goes beyond the discrepancies over ownership, and Campigli used photography to capture the legacy that that house represents.

Benjamin A. Haldane took a photo titled, “Haldane Studio” featured in this exhibit. Haldane, at the age of thirteen, migrated from British Columbia to Alaska with fellow Tsimshian people. They were migrating in search of religious freedom and the right to own land. He and his people sought the basic human rights that most Europeans were born with.

Inspired by this inequality between cultures, Haldane took photographs that brought attention to European wealth and respectability. These photographs encourage the audience to compare this ideal, European lifestyle to the realistic, common lives of those belonging to other cultures. To do this, he took photos of his community in its most natural form.

Haldane was not afraid to impact his audience. He used his photography as a way to influence others to step outside their biases and normalities and see how life truly is for members of other cultures. His images showed the difficult battles his people had to fight in order to continue practicing their traditions. His images demand realization, and, most of all, empathy.

This an extremely influential photography exhibit that every student can benefit from. It opens the viewer’s eyes to different ways of life that are carried both in memory and present day. These photographs capture culture in a captivating, memorable way.

Our People, Our Land, Our Images will be presented at the library until March 18. The gallery is open from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, until 8 p.m. on Thursdays, and from noon to 5 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.