One Person Crying: Women and War
The Museum of Tolerance, Photography, Los Angeles, United-States
Thursday August 16, 2012 - Thursday October 25, 2012 - Event ended.
ONE PERSON CRYING: Women and War, an exhibition by award winning photojournalist Marissa Roth, is a 28-year, personal global photo essay that addresses the immediate and lingering effects of war on women. Roth states, “In an endeavor to reflect on war from what I consider to be an underreported perspective, the project brought me face to face with hundreds of women who endured and survived war and it’s ancillary experiences of loss, pain and unimaginable hardship.”
The photographer’s journey took her from Novi Sad, Yugoslavia in 1984, to its conclusion in Vietnam in April 2012. The eighty-seven photographs cover twelve conflicts over a twenty-eight year time period, starting with the photographer’s own history as a child of Holocaust refugees. Additionally, the exhibition includes panels with historical perspectives and references to the wars addressed by Roth.
Roth started the project with her trusted manual Nikon FE-2 cameras. She continued her work with classic Tri-X film for the entire project. Decades and hundreds of rolls of film later, Roth’s commitment to the integrity and depth of her coverage is evident in her exquisite gelatin silver prints.
The exhibition was curated by Howard Spector, Los Angeles, CA, co-director of the South Pasadena Arts Council (SPARC), an NGO consultant, and panelist for the National Endowment for the Arts and the US Dept. of Education.
Visual content was the driving premise for organizing and sequencing of the images. Specific conflicts are not necessarily separated out as individual groupings. The interspersion of the women’s incredible stories of survival, heartbreak, and resilience provides a stark counterpoint to the seemingly uncomplicated pictures.
But in fact, they are quite layered and profound, vibrating with intense energy that manages to ‘tell’ sad stories with resolve. The inclusion of detailed facts and statistics about each conflict provide historical context for understanding of Roth’s photographs. The exhibition flows from images and stories of devastation, loss, torture, death, and survival, to ones presenting a more hopeful, positive future. The last sequences depict women with their young children, and finally just the children, many of who were born of war, but who can now look forward to lives in hopefully more peaceful times.
ONE PERSON CRYING: Women and War promises to be a landmark exhibition following Roth’s previous exhibitions; “In Hollywood” and “Downtown Los Angeles: Inside/Out”, 2009; “An Evening with Marissa Roth”, 2008; “Witness to Truth” Portraits of Holocaust Survivors, 2005; “Caught in the Crossfire: Women and War”, 2001; “Inside/Out: Downtown Los Angeles”, 2000; and “Burning Heart: A Portrait of the Philippines”, 1999.
ONE PERSON CRYING: Women and War, will debut at The Museum of Tolerance, Los Angeles from August 16 to October 25, 2012. The exhibition will be available for travel to additional venues from January 2013 through December 2015, for bookings and information contact www.photokunst.com
When humanity is betrayed by madness, war often follows. This project has been about my reconciliation of man’s need for war and the inadvertent upheaval imposed on the women who are directly affected by it. The slow-burning post-war truth that I have learned, is that in the end, war shows up men’s weaknesses and women’s strengths. For men, bravado doesn’t yield easily to admissions of loss or the failed ability to protect their own. Natural caretakers, women pick up the pieces, turning broken lives into replanted gardens. The bridge of anguish is crossed innumerable times from both sides, yet the perspective is always different because of gender roles, cultures and historical context.
I naively believed that war and peace were black and white sociological options. Gradually over the course of this 28-year project, which mirrored the arc of my own maturation process, my world-view palette shattered into a hundred shades of gray. Refusing cynicism, I have learned that war and peace are just words, that in fact it is the invisible thin line between civilization and anarchy, tolerance and intolerance - between 2 people, then 10 people, then a thousand people, then a million people, that predicates constructive coexistence.
I’ve read the story of war through the faces of every woman I have met on this project. Their eyes became words strung together in sentences of suffering, imprinted onto sheaths of tears bound together by a common experience, where neither time nor place matters. What matters profoundly to many of them is the universal knowledge that other women, who also survived war, share the same tragic secret of what it feels like to have lived through it.
Death doesn’t chose sides, but choosing life after war is quite another matter. A number of the women I have met around the world gained impossible strength from their heartache and losses and turned their gaze towards activism, advocating for social justice, peace and teaching tolerance. Their process was not always immediate or easy but came to them slowly as they faced post-war hardship, and healed physical and psychological wounds. I have tried not to take sides in illuminating a conflict, but rather chose to highlight women from all sides in order to tell the story of that particular war. The words are the same whether spoken in Belfast or Bosnia, in English, Hungarian or Cambodian. The women who I have chosen to feature here include activists and the unknown, reflecting the spectrum of women who embody ferocious spirits and quiet strength. Each in their own way chose life and made an indelible impression on me.