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Truth to Power: Fotoseptiembre Uplifts Photography’s Truth-telling Propensity


  • Byrd Williams IV
As the 24th annual Fotoseptiembre hits its full stride this week, there are probably more great photography exhibits going down than you have time to attend. Of course, elsewhere in this issue and last week’s issue we’ve given you some pointers and recommendations on particular shows that we are excited about. And if you’re especially ambitious about the number of exhibits you want to hit up, we’d recommend spending some time at, which offers a full schedule and detailed information about what you can expect from each exhibition.

One interesting thing to consider as you plot your Fotoseptiembre itinerary, be it modest or maximalist, is the unique ways in which photography and photographers seek and portray the truth. On its face, this might seem obvious. After all, documentary photography and photojournalism have been important aspects of the medium since its beginnings. But, in actuality, the truth-seeking and truth-telling power of photography goes far beyond the attempt to capture reality with a camera — because there’s always a level subjectivity to photography.

Someone has to choose the angle, the filter, the zoom level, the lighting and all that will not be depicted in any particular image. Photography is an act of interpreting the truth and framing the truth. Photographers, especially in truth-starved times like ours, are important agents of provocation and catalysts of rumination. Even better than telling viewers what the truth is, photographers and photography exhibits can force viewers to negotiate truth for themselves, to weigh their own perceptions against the aesthetics and content of the material they encounter.

Seen in this light, any Fotoseptiembre exhibit might be judged as an important opportunity to challenge yourself and reconsider the realities you imagine that you live within.

We have our sights set on a handful of exhibits that might be especially potent in this regard.

Texan photographer Byrd Williams IV, whose father, grandfather and great-grandfather were all photographers, too, is showing work in an exhibit called “Proof of Life” at REM Gallery (219 E. Park Ave.). The exhibit, which takes its title from Williams’ book of the same name, spans the work of four generations of Texas photographers named Byrd Williams. The exhibit gives a singular look at the evolution of Texas over the past 120 years or so while also offering insight into the evolution of one particular family.

An exhibit entitled “University of the Incarnate Word – The Word Lived In The Past” (Kelso Art Center, 4301 Broadway St.) takes a unique look at the history and legacy of the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word. The order arrived in San Antonio in 1869 and has since left its indelible mark, having founded not only the schools that became the university but also the clinics that became the Santa Rosa system, among many other contributions.

“The Miracle Still Here,” an exhibit at Intermezzo Gallery (716 High St., Comfort), presents work by four veteran photographers all looking for their own kind of truth. The exhibit boasts highlights form the following thematic bodies of work: “Sarah Pagona’s Body Politics, the street photography of Bruce Barshop, Hispanic touring circuses by Polly Harrison, and the sisterhood of incarcerated women in Ethiopia by Samira Messner.”

San Antonio law student and photographer Forrest Good offers up a meditation on “the perception of belonging and authenticity at particular locations and events in our world” via an exhibit entitled “Sense of Place” at R Space (110 E. Lachapelle) that focuses on the area surrounding the St. Mary’s Law Library.

Local photographer Edmundo Macias’ exhibit “Cuba Before McCuba,” hosted at S.M.A.R.T. Projectspace (1906 S. Flores St.), takes a critical and anticipatory look at the creeping effects of capitalism on the island. Macias writes in his artist’s statement that he “wanted to capture the beautiful island and its people and its magic before you see a McDonald’s on every corner.”

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