Human Rights in focus at the Ryerson Image Centre
As I walk into a packed Ryerson Image Centre on a chilly night, I quickly realize I'm not the only person who braved the cold to check out the gallery's latest lineup. In its second set of exhibits since opening last September, the Ryerson Image Centre delves deeply into human rights issues with four shows that kept me thinking long after my visit.
Of the four exhibits, Human Rights, Human Wrongs, is arguably the most anticipated, as it features 316 photographs from the Centre's infamous Black Star Collection. With the photos starting circa 1945, the exhibit touches on important moments in time including the Second World War and the Civil Rights era. But be forewarned, due to the explicit nature of some of the photographs, this exhibit also comes with a viewer advisory warning.
With this in mind, I entered the exhibit bracing for the worst, but I emerged an hour later pleasantly surprised. Admittedly, some photos made me squirm, but seeing the images en masse is what's really imprinted in my memory. Together, the photographs tell the stories of the 20th century, both good and bad. Days later I'm still grappling with the question, do human rights factor into our human wrongs?
Across the hall in the Student Gallery, Dominic Nahr reminds us that injustice is alive and well. Nahr's six large-scale photographs on display are part of his Captive State series. In 2011, Nahr, a TIME contract photographer, traveled to Somalia with TIME's Africa Bureau Chief Alex Perry, to document the drought that claimed the lives of 150,000 people. The resulting photographs tell the story of a nation in turmoil.
Like Human Rights, Human Wrongs, the subject matter Nahr deals with isn't always pretty, but the eloquent nature of Nahr's photographs makes it bearable. There is no shock value here, only Nahr's desire to share these scenes so they are never forgotten.
Contributions from Clive Holden and Alfredo Jaar round out the exhibits, with Holden riffing on the importance of fame in American culture in Unamerican Unfamous, and Jaar examining the way Africa is portrayed in North American culture in The Politics of Images.
With the exception of Nahr's show, which is on display until March 10th, all exhibits run through April 14th.
Writing by Erin Lucuik. Photos by Morris Lum