VIEW PBS’ STATE OF THE ARTS VIDEO FEATURE (rebroadcast scheduled for August 6th at 8PM on NJTV and at 11AM on WHYY; August 10th at 11:30PM)
ICP AT MANA CONTEMPORARY ARTS, JERSEY CITY, (opens November 3, 2017)
NJ HISTORICAL SOCIETY: RISKING LIFE & LENS EXHIBIT (extended to August 31, 2017)
Lobby of the NJ Historical Society Exhibit; photo by: John Bathke
What Is This Website Used For?
To educate — to see below the surface — to think about people who live in a low social economic status–to illustrate lectures, publications, exhibits on photography, art, sociology, history, psychology, health and living conditions, lead poisoning, housing violations and above all survival.
As a socially concerned documentary photographer in the tradition of Dorothea Lange, Lewis Hine, and Jacob Riis, I try to capture images of the dignity, elegance, and suffering of people who are trying to survive on nothing.
Any explanation of what my work is about, what I am doing, or why I am mostly compelled to communicate the struggles of people in despair, is elusive. Each time I think I find an answer and begin to write about the connection within me, the answer changes. As each theory becomes old hat or dry, I begin, again, the search to find a new explanation.
At times I am sure my works are self-portraits; but then I also think that they are protests against stereotypes that picture poor people living like “Queens” of “high on the hog.” At times I see them as exposés of some of the myths of poverty that say being poor is synonymous with being a criminal or undeserving; sometimes they reflect my reaction to those endless comments about bad neighborhoods being equivalent to bad people. Theses reasons shift in priority, but are all basically true. Protest I think, is always at the crux of my work, protest against injustice.
My quest for truth is the journey—the passion—that ignites my energy. It is a continuous process of “not knowing”—to know and then not to know, then letting go and beginning again. Following my heart as a guide, this journey remains the inspiration that enriches my life, making it meaningful and keeping the eternal light of hope alive.
Helen M. Stummer