Home Sweet Home: Photographs by Beth Fladung, May 4 - June 10, Redux Gallery
by Charlotte Deaver
If you are in or near New York City, don't miss Beth Fladung's photography exhibition at Redux Gallery (116 East 16th Street, just off of Union Square, 12th floor). The show will be up until June 10th.
Beth's been photographing motels and their long-term residents for several years now, having first taken notice of this largely unrecognized and marginalized sector of American society while living in L. A. in 1999. Although I've seen many of the photographs along the way, viewing them together and all in one room creates an effect much larger and more powerful than the individual pictures can do on their own, as a friend of Beth's noted at the show's opening.
What I think becomes evident in the photos is Beth's gift of combining her aesthetic eye with her social conscience, and using her unmistakable love for people and life in general to not just "capture" an image, but to encourage an audience's engagement with the photograghs and the subjects within them. For me, her pictures work to lessen the often distancing subject/object relationship that's inherent in all photographs. In Beth's photos, the viewer is beckoned, not pushed cooley back. Her work invites us into see the humanity in places many would turn their eyes away from, even though (or precisely because) we could all be in similar situations were it not in large part for good luck and fortune. "Come look," her pictures say: "There are amazing people and lives in here. Let's get to know them." Some of the residents are welfare recipients, but most of them are low-wage workers, families, children, grandparents, and students who pay lots of money to live week-to-week in these run-down motels. Many who can't scrape together the savings for first and last month's rent, therefore, find themselves in motels, struggling "to make a home and to create comfort and stability for themselves and their families in spaces that signify transience" (press release).
In participation with Redux Gallery this exhibition was presented by FADER magazine, the May Photography issue of which contains a several page spread on Beth's work. You can also see more pictures at her website, www.mosbef.com. Below are some pictures of Beth and friends at the gallery opening on May 4th.