What connects you to the rest of the world? Photography exhibition Faces of Our Planet explores the human experience of living on Earth and how globalization impacts the cultural, community, and individual perspectives throughout different regions of the world. A select team of leading contemporary fine art photographers visited communities across the globe to bring back intimate portraits and interviews to express the many diverse, common concerns, experiences, and benefits of an interconnected planet.
Albert Watson (b. 1942, U.K., Scotland)
My first trip to Morocco was in 1978 when I went on assignment to shoot a fashion story for French Vogue. Those were the days before cell phones or the internet, and although the country had one foot in the past, it was poised to move forward. Morocco today is a vastly different place. My photographs convey some of these changes, showing how the people and places have been affected by a more modern world.
“I can listen to the Quran in the mountains where I am alone with my herd. Unbelievable! I never imagined that I can do all these things in this part of the world.”
– Omar Afkir Hmad, Ourika, Morocco
Aline Smithson (b. 1953, U.S.)
I have selected immigrants who have enriched my life in ways both large and small. [They are] people of two worlds—one foot rooted in the culture that shaped their identity, and one foot rooted in a country built on hope.
I asked each person to wear or hold something they brought with them on their journey to the United States. Each object represents a significant personal connection to a place that was once called home.
“I fly back to Switzerland for work or to visit family and friends. When I don’t travel, I use Skype.”
–Shari Yantra Marcacci, Studio City, CA
Isabel Corthier (b. 1977, Belgium)
Are traditions disappearing or becoming pale variants of one dominant culture, the Western one? Or are traditions dynamic entities that find different ways on how to deal with globalization? The visited traditions seem to have adapted and changed¬—as a result of globalization—in ways that remain true to their most cherished values.
Generally, the [Namibian] people hoped to be more connected to other people in the world, mainly to learn from each other.
“We haven’t the latest cell phone….Anything that is happening outside of Namibia, I listen to from the radio.” –Isabella Kaunahamba, Purros, Namibia
The exhibit appears in the new One World Connected Gallery 207 which tells the story of how aviation and spaceflight transformed the world—accelerating and making more accessible connections across vast distances, in every direction, enabling people, things, ideas, and images to move and intermingle in ways unprecedented in human history. Today, our travels in outer space have also given us new views of the planet—of Earth as humanity’s home, whose fate is inseparable from human actions and choices. Artifacts such as communication and weather satellites, touch screen interactives, models of the Earth, and original art of various media comprise the gallery. Faces of Our Planet complements these artifacts and interactives with a human dimension that provides personal reflections on recent globalization.
David Kressler (b. 1968, U.S.)
Most of my work deals with how humans change the landscape to meet their needs, hopes, and desires. The artists I photographed are also concerned with how we change the planet in ways and on a scale never before possible. Modern technologies help us to migrate, explore, and make new discoveries. They shrink the distance between places and people and diffuse ideas across the globe. They bring together communities, provide connections to home, and even make political escape and refuge possible.
“I hope the future will be amazing….we have to think of other people for the future…our children….We have to think a wonderful world is coming.” – Samir Kurshid, Portland, Oregon
Susana Raab (b. 1968, Peru)
Lima’s Pacific coastline is comprised of a group of beaches known as La Costa Verde, all as diverse in representation as the Peruvian people. I have long walked these beaches in search of the Peruvian identity.
Facebook and the phone are the great unifiers and distributors of information for all but the oldest and most traditional. Climate change is a real concern and Peruvians are interested in saving their glaciers and sources of water in the Andes.
“Kids are more and more aware and the internet has given them more information….The next generation will be better than us taking care of the environment.” – Rosa Asca, Lima, Peru
Jeffrey Milstein (b. 1944, U.S.)
Artists first settled here [Hudson Valley, New York] in the 1800s, and its natural beauty fostered the Hudson River School of landscape painting. Prior to globalization, the area was also an important source of food and manufactured goods for New York City but the area became adversely affected with cheaper imports.
We are seeing a rebirth of agriculture due to the demand for farm-to-table food. Also, the internet has shrunk the world making it possible to run global businesses from the Valley.
“Hopefully we see the connections between all living things and their importance to each other—and begin to save the world rather than destroy it.” – Barry Koffler, High Falls, New York, U.S.
We are interconnected and interdependent as never before. Yet not everyone has experienced these changes in the same way. Think of your own, or your community’s, access to the Internet. Think of how you receive television. Or where the different types of goods come from in your local stores. Dr. Martin Collins, the originating lead curator for One World Connected, and Carolyn Russo, a museum specialist and curator of art with a background in photography, aimed to answer these questions personally. Accordingly, they organized a group of contemporary photographers to work in different regions of the world to create portraits and perform interviews to see how individuals are affected by recent technological developments and changes in aerospace as it relates to a more connected planet.
Photographers for Faces of Our Planet were selected based on their artistic merit and geographic locations. They include internationally acclaimed photographers like Albert Watson, Rania Matar, Isabel Corthier, Alexandros Lambrovassilis, Susana Raab, Will Wilson, David Kressler, Jeffrey Milstein, and Aline Smithson. For the exhibit, each photographer also provided an artist statement reflecting their approach to the project alongside portraits and interviews with their participants. Participants were asked:
- In what ways are you in your family life or job connected to or dependent on people or activities in other countries?
- Is the health of the environment a concern for you? In what ways?
- As we become ever more connected and interdependent, how do you see the future for you, your family, and your community?
Rania Matar (b. 1964, Lebanon)
As a Lebanese-born American artist and mother, my cross-cultural experience and personal narrative inform my photography. My work follows my path and my daughters’ through the states of being and transformations. I am interested in what it is like to be a girl, a woman and a mother, and how we make sense of a world that poses endless questions on girls and women of all backgrounds.
Finding connections between women is especially important in the current political climate we live in, where the ‘them vs. us’ rhetoric is prevalent. After all, I am ‘them’ and I am ‘us’–as we all truly are.
“I am connected via the internet.... As a refugee, I cannot travel, but I am in touch with the world.”– Samira Abo Shaker, Bourj El Barajneh Refugee Camp, Beirut, Lebanon
Will Wilson (b. 1969, U.S., Navajo)
Living in Navajo Nation during my formative years has shaped the way I see myself as an Indigenous American and how I represent Native Americans through art. My work is an allegorical investigation of the extraordinary rapid transformation of the Indigenous lifeways, the dis-ease it has caused, and the strategy of responses that enable cultural survival.
These responses—rather than the old paradigm of assimilation—can be the basis for a re-imagined vision of who we are as Native people.
“I hope to see the people of all nations and races begin to stand together…to save the world [and] that our future generations are given an opportunity to live without fear.”– Tashina Jean Tahdooahnippah, El Reno, Oklahoma
Alexandros Lambrovassilis (b. 1970, Greece)
Throughout human history, people are shaped by the environment, locally and globally. I consider our physical or constructed environment to be the ‘face of our planet’ which reflects the human condition as we’ve encountered and reshaped it across the longitudes and latitudes. What is it that people see when they leave their homes to go to school, to work? How do they relate to their environment? Where is their favorite place in their village or city?
“I believe…humans in their core are social creatures and this requires proximity….Although we seem to be more connected, at some level we might be growing apart.” – Dimitra Aggelou, Athens, Greece
Their photographic journeys resulted in portraits and interviews with women, men, and children in the Navajo Nation and cities within the United States, Peru, Greece, Namibia, Morocco, and Lebanon, in environments from studio settings, rural countrysides, beaches, city street scenes, to a refugee camp. Faces of Our Planet fittingly surrounds a massive interactive globe at the center of One World Connected and represents some of the commonalities and challenges as we connect to our shared planet Earth.
Carolyn Russo is a museum specialist and the curator of art in the Aeronautics Department.
Title image courtesy of Isabel Corthier.