THE LOCAL: holding on and letting go is a Melbourne-based series of photographs and interviews by Eliza Gregory. She is an artist and writer from San Francisco and lives in Melbourne. Eliza likes to make art about people and their places. In an interview with TYT Eliza speaks about telling stories about people with photography and why her project helped strengthen her community.
The series is now available to view online at www.holdon-letgo.com. The next showing of THE LOCAL will be at the Global Gallery, in Paddington, NSW (which is essentially in Sydney). It runs from May 6-15th.
Your exhibition "The Local:holding on and letting go" in Melbourne just started. What does this project mean to you? What inspired you to this project?
The project consists of portraits of people from many different backgrounds, paired with interviews about the process of cultural adaptation. People tell stories of moving from one country to another, dealing with rapid change in the country they've always lived in, coping with prejudice and cultural repression, and navigating the process of building and maintaining one’s personal cultural identity.
The project is conceived of as a way to help mitigate the social isolation that many new immigrants or marginalized populations feel. It’s also designed to catalyze new relationships by breaking down cultural barriers and prejudices so that people can more easily get to know each other.
Do you think your project strengthened your community through art?
I believe that art is essentially about communication, and communication is what builds relationships between people. One measure of the health of a community is how many relationships there are. The more quality relationships you have in a given area, the happier and healthier people in that area tend to be. So to me, art is something that can often lead directly to strengthening communities. This project is based upon that idea, and is designed specifically to catalyze and support relationships between very different people or groups, which it can be difficult to form without some kind of boost.
Did some of the pictures you took change your view on your community?
Oh definitely. That's what this project is all about--trying to see the people that you pass on the street every day and don't really notice. This project has helped me get to know so many new people, and learn so much more about their lives. I feel a very different relationship to my community now than I did before this project. I feel personally embedded in my community, and excited and interested in it. And I feel a lot of affection and admiration for all the people I got to know over the course of the project.
What part does photography play in your life?
Well...a big part! For me, photography is both an end in itself--I enjoy trying to make something beautiful, and so each picture is another chance to reach that goal--and a tool to achieve a specific end. In this project, I wanted to have a small but meaningful impact on my community by demonstrating my respect for the people who live around me. Photography, audio recording, partnership-building, and personal relationships were all tools I used to achieve that goal. I think photography is a great tool for a project like this because it is fun and quite straightforward: it's easy for people to understand what I'm doing. It also is reproducible, so it allows one image to be used in many different ways: in an exhibition, as a gift to the subject, and online to reach a larger audience.
So photography is both eminently practical in my work, but it's also something that moves me. It makes me excited about life, happy to be alive, happy to feel curious about others. I think photography really celebrates learning and feeling, and those things are very important to me.
How did people react to your project?
People are really supportive, and it couldn't happen without their support. It begins with the support of the staff of the organizations I partner with. Those people have to believe in the project in order to introduce me to their clients. Then THOSE people (the clients) have to believe in the project in order to feel like they want to participate. And then a whole bunch of other people have to be excited about the project in order to come and see the exhibition, or look at it on the web. This time, I also used the crowd-funding platform called Kickstarter to help catalyze enthusiasm and financial support for the project, and that has been extremely successful. So, in general, I'd say people have really been excited about the project. They have described the exhibition as feeling welcoming--as though they are part of a close knit community, even just standing amongst the photographs. I really like that.-
|Joe Boy and Donnie|
|Duc Toan Diep|
|Nick, Pha, Belle and Rory|
For more on Eliza Gregory visit elizagregory.com