AUSTIN, Texas – A community-run photo exhibition that opened in East Austin in early 2020 is attracting international attention. For the annual Taylor Wessing photo exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery in London, two photos were selected that Bertie Pearson took for the exhibition Where is Here in Northern-Southern.
Where is here? Here are photos of people who grew up in, or who frequent, East Austin. Six photographers shot the photos for the show: Arius Holifield, Montinique Monroe, Tyeschea West, Bertie Pearson, Hector Hernandez and Ryan Junell. Keyheira Keys and Phillip Niemeyer curated and organized the project.
The project includes photos of Austinites of all ages, newborns to 100 years.
Bertie Pearson is standing with photos of “Where is Here” on March 12, 2020. (D. Okoro / Spectrum News)
“It’s kind of a look at the chronology of East Austin, an area that has changed tremendously over the past 100 years,” said Bertie Pearson. “Each of these faces actually represents a year of the history of time, of change in our community, of the growth of technology.”
The photos were taken between February 2019 and February 2020. The project is kind of a time capsule for the moment before the COVID-19 pandemic hit Texas. Some of the seniors photographed died from the coronavirus.
Photo of the exhibition “Where is here?” On March 12, 2020 in North-South (D. Okoro / Spectrum News)
“I’m sad to see you go. But so happy to have met her. And even happier that while I couldn’t predict what would happen in the next few weeks, I was able to take their photos and hear their stories before they were gone, ”tweeted co-curator Keyheira Keys.
Keyheira Keys is on March 12, 2020 with photos at Northern-Southern (D. Okoro / Spectrum News)
It took me about a year to find and photograph everyone for the show. The photographers say one of the hardest parts of the project was finding seniors from East Austin. They visited various senior centers such as the Connelly Guerro Activity Center and Parsons House to find elders of all ages.
“You’ve spent some time here and seen a lot of different changes here in Austin,” said photographer Arius Holifield. “What was great at Parsons House is that we were able to speak in their own situation and take their photos. They knocked on her door and asked her about her life and saw her photos and pictures on the wall. They were comfortable and sat on their couch and opened up as best they could. It was a really good experience. “
In this photo dated March 12, 2020, Arius Holifield is among some of the photos he took (D. Okoro / Spectrum News).
What is the answer to the question “Where is here?” Phillip Niemeyer, North-South gallery director, says it depends where you stand.
“The perspectives of the older people in this program are very different from the perspectives of the 20-year-olds or the children or the people my age,” said Niemeyer. “It is a great advantage to be able to see something from another person’s point of view as much as possible. I hope the show gives someone a little bit of that. “
Phillip Niemeyer smiles at a photo of his daughter in the exhibition “Where is Here” on March 12, 2020 in Northern-Southern (D. Okoro / Spectrum News).
Bertie Pearson’s photos were selected from 6,000 entries for the prestigious Taylor Wessing Photographic Exhibition. A total of 54 photos will be shown in the London show. Pearson’s photos, which will be included, show Robert Bryant and Carnewia Spence, both members of the New Light Ebenezer Baptist Church, a historic African American congregation in East Austin.
These photos of Robert Bryant and Carnewia Spence, captured by Bertie Pearson, are shown in an exhibition in London (Photo credit: Bertie Pearson)
Although his photographs are recognized internationally, Pearson does not see himself as a professional photographer.
“I’m a bishop priest and for me a lot of my photography revolves around theology. In my religious tradition, everyone is an icon of God. We are all made in the image and likeness of God, ”Pearson said. “Capturing the beauty of everyone, not specifically people who society arbitrarily says are beautiful, but the beauty of all people is something I care about.”