Who belongs here – in this America?
This exhibition pairs two sets of photographic records, two tragic experiences of people on two sides of the US border, separated by seventy-five years in America’s cultural and political struggle over who belongs and who doesn’t. At the heart of it is a collection of work by the renowned photographers Dorothea Lange and Ansel Adams and Clem Albers. Their images are part of the Library of Congress collection of the War Relocation Authority that hired these photographers to document the registration, processing and internment of 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry (over two thirds of whom were American citizens) in concentration camps in the West. Many of them – particularly those of Lange – were censored during the war and never seen until the 1970s.
This collection is paired with contemporary works by Chilean photographer Tamara Merino whose October 2018 photo documentary for National Geographic examined the plight of Central American, Venezuelan, and Cuban refugees who walked and hitched rides over 1,000 miles through Mexico to camp on the US border, hoping to obtain asylum in the US. This migrant caravan sparked a storm of political debate over immigration policies similar to debates that polarize political discourse in Europe. It continues today with the organization of an even larger caravan now making its way north through Mexico.
This exhibition seeks to surface the human element in an otherwise abstracted and obfuscatory debate, the stories of people who have had to pick up their belongings and move with their families – forced either by Executive Order or by conditions where life has become essentially unlivable.
Who belongs in America?
Curated by Tim Blunk/Director, Gallery Bergen
Thanks to the United States Library of Congress for the use of the WRA photographs by Ansel Adams, Dorothea Lange and Clem Albers. Special thanks to Juan Leon and Francis Schmidt for their assistance in printing and mounting this exhibition.