CENTER AWARDS: Curators Choice: Angie Keller
This week and next, Lenscratch will be sharing the CENTER Award winners and the statements by the jurors to help understand their choices.
Angie Keller is a Peruvian-American documentary photographer. Keller was born and lived her early years in Peru before immigrating to the United States as a young adult. From a very early age, she traveled around Peru and witnessed its diverse cultures first hand. Many years spent living outside of Peru have allowed her the opportunity to appreciate better that Peru’s vibrant and diverse cultures are fundamental to what makes Peruvian life unique.
Angie Keller’s work has been featured in Color Magazine, Nueva Luz Photographic Journal, Publicações Memorial da América Latina, and the WomenArts Quarterly Journal. She has been the recipient of the first place Curator’s Choice Awards CENTER Santa Fe 2016. She has been selected as a finalist for the ONWARD Compé 2016 and as an awardee for En Foco’s New Works Photography Fellowship Awards #18, 2014-2015. She also received the documentary category award at the 2013-2014 UNESCO/Humanity Photo Awards in China, and the first place in the project category for the 2010 Texas Photographic Society.
She has exhibited nationally at the Project Basho Gallery in Philadelphia, the Bronx Documentary Center in New York, the Inter-American Development Bank in DC, ArteAméricas, Spiva Center for the Arts, the Blue Star Gallery, Missouri State University International Center, and the Art Fest El Doral. Internationally, she has exhibited at the Sala Miró Quesada Garland in Lima, Peru, and the Afro-Peruvian National Museum. She is scheduled for a future exhibition at the Peruvian National Museum and the CENTER Santa Fe in New Mexico.
Her work has been chosen for the permanent collection at The House of Peruvian Literature/Ministry of Education, the Congress of the Republic of Peru/National Afro-Peruvian Museum, the Peruvian Presidential Scholar School, and at the Peruvian Consulate-General in Miami.
CURATOR’S CHOICE: Juror’s Statement
Jeff Rosenheim, Curator in Charge, Department of Photographs, The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Artists accepted the necessary consequences of exposing themselves and their work in public and submitted over 3,500 photographs to this year’s CENTER Awards in the “Curator’s Choice” category. I had the great pleasure of looking at them all. It was a life-affirming process from start to finish. Not because every picture maker convinced me that they were the true inheritor of the pictorial tradition of Daguerre, Fox Talbot, and Brady; or a worthy descendant of Nadar, Sander, and Arbus; or an expander of the experimental graphic practices of Moholy-Nagy and Man Ray; or an able disciple of the poignant social realism seen in the work of Hine or Lange. Some applied their understanding of these historical models; others carefully avoided them. A few were blissfully unaware of anything but their desire to add a new image to a world already brimming full of them. Collectively, the CENTER’s applicants prove once again that the medium of photography, both analog and digital, is alive and well and a corrective to those who might believe otherwise.
I have chosen Angie Keller for the first prize for her series of portraits of Afro-Peruvian women at ease in their homes in El Carmen, a small city south of Lima in coastal Peru. As she has written, “These women are in the process of building their own personal landscape with character and determination. I attempt to correct these marginalizations by deliberately seating them in the center of the frame.” How right she was. The honesty and generosity of Keller and her camera work skillfully illuminate the homes and lives of the sitters, descendants of African slaves brought to Peru beginning in the 16th century and as late as 1850. The photographs reveal how much we can learn from these strong women and the artist who made them come to life and rendered them visible for us all.
The Gladioli of El Carmen
During a visit to my native country of Peru, I noticed the farm workers endured grueling schedules, leaving home before dawn and returning very late at night. When I asked why the workers were mostly women, the answer was, “They don’t complain.” This remark sparked my interest in the role of women in Peruvian society and after a career teaching Spanish in American universities I turned to photography to explore this issue.
The Afro-Peruvian women of El Carmen, a coastal town in Southern Peru, inspired my latest project, “The Gladioli of El Carmen”. The gladiola is a delicate flower that originated in Africa but was also a symbol of the strength of gladiators in Ancient Rome. This combination of delicacy and strength comes to life through my viewfinder as each woman presents herself as she wishes in her most familiar environment, her home.
On August of 2007, a devastating earthquake hit this community leaving 80% of their adobe homes destroyed. With the help of different organizations, many houses have been rebuilt with brick but many people moved away or still live in whatever is left of their homes.
I have been photographing El Carmen since 2011. I found the women and their contributions to familial and cultural life were taken for granted or rendered invisible. As a former single mother, I understood their plight. El Carmen’s women don’t ordinarily think of themselves as strong. After I began to photograph these women, I felt that their self-perception began to shift. The longer I lived and worked with them, the more they recognized their own strength.
They have built or are in process of building their own personal landscape with strong character and determination at the same time as El Carmen is rebuilding. In my portraits, I attempt to correct these women’ marginalization by deliberately seating them in the center of the frame. I am determined to make these women more visible because they are the center of their home and this community.
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