Al J. Thompson: Storytellers
To be contemporary is to exist atop the ashes of what came before. Transience within human culture, architecture, and civilization is commonplace and yet the commonplace process of gentrification is not a natural shift but the swift and systematic erasure of a community. Photographer Al J. Thompson explores this phenomenon specifically in Spring Valley, NY in his project, Remnants of an Exodus, and yet the tone of the imagery and subsequent story that unfolds is one that no region of the US is unfamiliar with. While tension and a bleak certitude are evident in the work so is tenderness and humanity. In many ways Thompson’s images are essential for our current moment, highlighting the human community being forced out by new developments. However, as we move forward into the unknown one could expect these photographs much like the community depicted, to endure.
Born in the island of Jamaica, Al J. Thompson moved to an immigrant community in suburban New York in the year 1996. Two decades later he noticed the dramatic changes to the place he once knew, projected by what he termed as ‘political figures coiled with greed’.
As a devotee to the science of Psychology and Visual Arts, Thompson sets out to convey the nuances that he believes are circumstances of societal turmoil. His rhythmic approach to photography, at times envelopes people, places, and things that often generates poetic dialogue with subtlety ¬– one that he perceives is consistent to the impression that all things relate.
Thompson has been published in several magazines including PDN, Booooooom, Ain’t-Bad, The New Yorker, National Geographic, C-41, La Vie, Photo Emphasis, Viewfind, Rocket Science, among others.
Remnants of an Exodus
Remnants of an Exodus tells the story of a once thriving Caribbean immigrant community under the threat of gentrification in Spring Valley; a suburban town just 40 minutes out of New York City.
Now controlled by Ultra-Orthodox and Hassidic developers, we observe a dramatic shift in both demographic and political landscapes. Given the continued overdevelopment of land, tensions have been mounted between many religious Jews and people of the African Diaspora.
Driven by metaphors, ROAE exhibits nuance — yet, one that indicates a sense of endurance within those negatively affected in the slow death of a community caused by isolationism and political expediency.
Macaulay Lerman was born in the Spring in Southern California and raised in New England. As a young adult he traveled throughout the US and Canada hitchhiking, hopping freight trains, and driving his camper van. While Lerman rarely carried a camera during this time, he developed a practice of documentary storytelling through extensive journaling. To this day he remains fascinated by fringe communities and alternative ways of living, perceiving, and being in the world. While his process is largely ethnographic, in the sense that he immerses himself in the worlds he depicts, he is far more interested in emotional realities than hardlined physical truths. Above all else he values dreams and memory. A photograph exists somewhere between the two and this is why he is drawn to the medium. Lerman earned his BFA in Photography and Documentary Studies from Green Mountain College in Poultney, Vermont. Since then he has shot for a variety of organizations including the Slate Valley Museum and the Vermont Folklife Center. His work has been exhibited internationally in solo and group exhibitions, and featured in publications including It’s Nice That, and Anywhere BLVD. Lerman currently resides in Burlington Vermont where he is an active member of the Wishbone Artist Collective.
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