Exhibition Dates: October 27, 2014–January 24, 2015
Reception and Artist’s Talk: October 30, 6–9 p.m.
Center for Documentary Studies, Juanita Kreps Gallery
1317 W. Pettigrew St., Durham, North Carolina
“The City of Whittier is a world entire. The great myth of Alaska—harsh but rewarding, distant, lawless, primal, pristine—is alive here, unglorified and unique. From the entrance of the tunnel to the end of an unfinished road, Whittier is only three miles long—just barely longer than the tunnel itself. It can be mapped in fewer than fifteen streets. Hours here have a small town’s drawling density. It is not timeless but time-heavy. Minutes stretch out like mountain ranges, beautiful and frightening and impossible to escape. Everyone’s got a tall tale to make them pass. I’ve been told that Whittier was named town with the best-tasting water in the country, two years running. I hear there’s a goldmine across the bay. It’s all true or it’s all false, and all of it matters: how anyone came to live in this unlikely land, how this city of no city came to be.”
—Jen Kinney, from City Under One Roof
This solo exhibition at the Center for Documentary Studies is part of the twenty-first Dorothea Lange–Paul Taylor Prize, awarded by CDS in 2013 to American photographer and writer Jen Kinney for “City Under One Roof,” her project on Whittier, Alaska. The prestigious award is given to encourage documentary work in the tradition of acclaimed photographer Dorothea Lange and writer and social scientist Paul Taylor. Relaunched in 2011, the $10,000 annual prize supports documentary artists—working alone or in teams—involved in ongoing fieldwork projects that rely on both words and images in their creation and presentation. Winning projects are included in the Archive of Documentary Arts at Duke University’s David M. Rubenstein Library.
Kinney, a 2012 graduate in photography and imaging from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, uses her own photographs—both environmental and human portraits—oral histories of year-round or part-time Whittier residents, historical essays, and archival photographs to explore shared spaces in a town she describes as an “unlikely crossroads of community and solitude, isolation and claustrophobia.” The only land access to the tiny outpost on Prince William Sound, sixty miles north of Anchorage, is via the longest rail and highway tunnel in North America. Ninety percent of Whittier’s population of just over two hundred people live in one fourteen-story building called Begich Towers. Kinney’s ongoing project looks at “how the structures that people inhabit shape and order their lives; how, in turn, people construct, alter, and destroy spaces; and how these constant renovations to our physical world mirror changes in the stories that we tell ourselves, and how we structure our lives to these stories.”
To read some of Jen Kinney’s writing for City Under One Roof, see the Winter 2014 issue of Document.
Exhibition Dates: December 1, 2014–April 13, 2015
Reception and artist’s talk: Thursday, January 15, 2015, 6–8 p.m.
Center for Documentary Studies, Library
1317 W. Pettigrew St., Durham, North Carolina
From the World to Lynn: Stories of Immigration, composed of black-and-white photographs, audio oral histories, and an interactive website, is the product of an independent project Andrea Patiño Contreras undertook while in Lynn, Massachusetts, as a Lewis Hine Documentary Fellow, to help her better understand the community in which she was working.
The fabric of a city is woven of many threads, and Lynn, Massachusetts, is particularly colorful. The city’s history of industrial success—especially at the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth centuries—paved the way for a profoundly diverse population to settle in the area, as people from numerous countries sought better opportunities. The boom years are long gone, but diversity is an evolving mainstay. One can move through the weathered, industrial-looking city, with its rundown buildings and overhear multiple languages at once: Spanish, Russian, Arabic.
Out of Lynn’s approximately 90,000 residents, almost 30 percent are foreign-born compared with 13 percent for the United States as a whole. In the early twentieth century, immigrants—mostly from Europe—arrived in the United States in numbers comparable to those of today. The difference is where they came from: then it was mostly Italy; today it’s Mexico. As the twentieth century progressed, Lynn, like many other cities in the United States, underwent a process of deindustrialization. In the 1970s and 80s it experienced severe population loss. Today, the population is roughly the same size as it was in 1910.
Though the industries are gone, Lynn’s diverse population and its historical and cultural richness remain, even if under very different conditions. As a hub for refugee resettlement, every year people from all over the world arrive in this small city in the Northeast: Cambodians, Bhutanese, and most recently, Iraqis have come looking for better lives, just like thousands of Europeans did decades before them.
Andrea Patiño Contreras, a 2012–13 Lewis Hine Documentary Fellow, graduated from Duke University with a B.A. in cultural anthropology and a certificate in policy journalism. She is a master’s candidate at the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of North Carolina. Founded on the spirit, values, and actions of Lewis Hine, the Lewis Hine Documentary Fellows Program at the Center for Documentary Studies connects the talents of young documentarians with the resources and needs of organizations serving children and their communities around the world. As a Hine Fellow, Andrea worked with Raw Art Works (RAW) in Lynn, Massachusetts. RAW is an arts organization that serves over 1,200 youth ages six to nineteen through programming that inspires them to “tell their stories, envision new possibilities, and transform their lives.” Through her work at RAW, Andrea became interested in Lynn’s profoundly diverse population and started documenting the stories of immigrants and refugees in the city.