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Lauren Pond’s Test of Faith: Duke University Press Fall 2017 Catalog

 

Gloriann Liu: 2016 Finalist

Zarghona, In Her Own Words depicts the story of Zarghona, a mother of six and a true survivor. Her youngest son lost the use of his legs after a rocket exploded near him, and now she is his primary caregiver. While most of her children are married now, they still rely on her strength and endurance.


Zarghona was sold into marriage at the age of ten to a widower forty years her senior. She had her first child at the age of fourteen, which means she has spent most of her life taking care of other people. Yet, you wouldn’t know it by talking to her. She has no self-pity because she doesn’t know any other kind of life. Every day means survival and finding food for her family.

I have been so touched by Zarghona and her life that I invited her to edit my photographs with me. I wanted the captions to be in her words because I feel I could never capture her spirit in my words alone. —Gloriann Liu

 

Keith Yahrling: 2016 Finalist

The area of the original thirteen colonies of the United State of America extends from Maine to Georgia and from the Appalachian Mountains to the Atlantic Ocean. Within this historic boundary, the American Revolution was staged and ideological notions of freedom and liberty were first developed.

Since 2012, I have embarked on numerous trips through this historic area, searching for instances that illustrate how contentious notions of freedom and liberty are represented in the everyday actions of individuals and the many ways those ideals are embedded within the landscape. In addition to my explorations of the broader area of the original thirteen colonies, I have also explored locations where battles took place during the Revolutionary War to pinpoint the exact landscapes where individuals fought over the principles that I am trying to locate in the broader settings.


My interests in these themes formed at an early age, from the childhood explorations of a Revolutionary War battlefield located in my hometown of National Park, New Jersey, to the rare stories my father would tell me from his tour in Vietnam. My explorations through America’s original thirteen colonies represents both a desire to understand the democratic roots of my country and my own personal heritage, because the two are inseparable.

The photographs describe the landscape and the individuals within the space of the original thirteen colonies. My intention is to bring to the surface an American ethos within the places I have explored. For the Revolution captures the complex unfinished nature of the United States through all of its triumphs and failures, as we move towards a more perfect union. —Keith Yahrling

Aaron Vincent Elkaim: 2016 Finalist

Meandering 1600 km before connecting to the Amazon River, the Xingu River has been home to Brazil’s indigenous people for millennia. In 1961, the famous Brazilian activist and anthropologist trio the Villas-Bôas brothers succeeded in protecting the entire upper Xingu basin through the establishment of the first Indigenous Park in Brazil. Fifteen years later, under military dictatorship, a new plan would seal the fate of the lower Xingu. The original plans for the Belo Monte Dam Complex included six dams and would flood 1,225 km² of Rainforest. In 1989, indigenous groups led by the Kayapó mounted a massive public campaign to oppose its construction due to fears that their river would be destroyed. International financiers soon pulled their support, and the project was shelved.

In 2007, then Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva announced the Accelerated Growth Program, the largest investment package to spur economic growth in Brazil in the past forty years. A cornerstone of this program is the industrialization of the Amazon, with a reworked plan for Belo Monte at the forefront of a proposal to construct over sixty major hydroelectric projects. Now nearing completion, the Belo Monte Dam is considered the third largest dam in the world and is displacing over twenty thousand people.


Hydroelectric dams are touted as clean and renewable sources of energy, yet hundreds of square miles of land are flooded and complex river ecosystems permanently transformed while new infrastructure and population growth open the forests to increased logging, mining, and agriculture. Environmentalists believe Brazil’s energy demands could be solved with solar and wind investment; meanwhile, Brazilian corruption scandals have been connected to what is now the largest infrastructure project in South America.

When a river is dammed an entire region is changed forever. Where the River Runs Through explores the lives of those living within Brazil’s dam boom. Indigenous and riverine people who depend upon their environment for survival are facing new realities as the Belo Monte Dam nears completion; at the same time programs meant to compensate the impacted people remain unfulfilled. On the neighboring Tapajos River, the Munduruku Tribe of thirteen thousand people, are fighting against government plans to build the next mega dam, the San Luiz do Tapajos, that would flood their traditional territory and destroy the river that is their sacred home.

The impacts of hydroelectric energy are severely misunderstood around the world; the realities of this “green energy” fall on the remote communities who are directly impacted. Where the River Runs Through seeks to recognize their voices so we can better understand what is lost when a river is dammed. —Aaron Vincent Elkaim

Andy Richter: 2016 Finalist

Serpent in the Wilderness is an ongoing visual meditation on yoga. While this ancient Indian science has deep roots in Hindu mythology and doctrine, today it is mainstream, global and growing in popularity. In Sanskrit, the word “yoga” is used to signify connection or union and is associated with heightened awareness of oneself. It is both a series of techniques for realization and state of being. While the external form and the context may vary—from turban-wearing Sikhs of the Kundalini tradition, to chanting Bhakti yogis of the Krishna Consciousness movement, to spandex clad urban yogis sweating in the studio—all practices point to greater awareness, a peaceful mind, a healthy body and a compassionate heart.


Today in the United States, over twenty million people practice yoga. Soldiers returning form conflict zones are practicing Transcendental Meditation to deal with Post Traumatic Stress. Prisoners are transforming their relationship to anger and violence through yoga. Scientific research continues to support the mental, emotional and physiological benefits of yoga and meditation. Over five years, I have traveled to places that are historically relevant to its past and others that embody its present. From living rooms across America to ashrams and caves throughout India, the work reveals hidden layers and rarely seen dimensions of yoga.

Despite yoga’s worldwide growth and appeal, understanding and media attention tends to be superficial, focused on celebrity yogis, or the physical, youthful and commercial aspects of the practice. Yet this project suggests it is something more: a profound spiritual path and way of life that is both accessible and transcends cultural barriers. —Andy Richter

Janet Pritchard: 2016 Finalist

Yellowstone National Park is an iconic American landscape that helped to define national character in the 19th century and remains a place of wonder and the embodiment of landscape preservation as an ideal. In More Than Scenery: Yellowstone, an American Love Story I follow three threads of inquiry, a form of visual triangulation where each inquiry surveys the Yellowstone story from a different vantage point.

Views from Wonderland depicts visitors in our time. Many feel wonder when visiting this landscape, and these photographs capture that experience, giving the viewer a taste of what it is like to be there. Collecting Yellowstone depicts objects in archives and expressions of popular culture. Here reminders of the special role Yellowstone plays as a national symbol, as an ideal, are made visible. Stories from the Ecosystem depicts Yellowstone’s natural history wonders and sites of management complexities. People are drawn to Yellowstone to see its wonders, but the notoriously complex management and resource issues keep Yellowstone safe.


When the threads are woven together, viewers will see wonders layered with present day realities, while historical treasures and popular culture push against preservation and management complexities; the voices of many are present. My methodology—termed historical empathy by a colleague in history—grounds my image making in historical and archival research and helps me see the landscape with new eyes. These visual strategies yield a fuller, more complex, and nuanced picture of Yellowstone.

More Than Scenery photographically maps the terrain of Yellowstone National Park as a real and ideal landscape, as a public and a personal landscape across generations, weaving diverse images with original text, quotations, and maps to create a community of observations and ideas, much like a visual ecosystem, supporting my thesis that Yellowstone National Park is indeed more than scenery. —Janet Pritchard