Survival in the face of suffering Review: 'A Woman's Point of View' captures the courage of people living life at its most difficult.

March 13, 1998|By John Dorsey | John Dorsey,SUN ART CRITIC

Nancy Andrews' 1997 photograph shows a Sarajevo building with some walls blown away and others pock-marked from shellfire. At an opening in one of the walls, two women hang up clothes to dry. Thinking back on the Balkan war, one of the women, Aovija Mangafic, said to Andrews, "We didn't spend much time on the balcony," and that's what Andrews titled her photograph.

To be able to survive the horrors of war at all, let alone with humor, requires more courage than most people think they have before disaster strikes. But life itself, with all its tragedies and challenges, requires courage, and that's the message of "Sharing Perspectives: A Woman's Point of View."

This exhibit of 53 photographs by female photojournalists appears on the occasion of the Women in Photojournalism Conference taking place in Baltimore this weekend, organized by Sun photographer Nanine Hartzenbusch. The show will continue until the end of the month.

It was selected by a three-juror panel who chose diverse works that nevertheless have some things in common. They all include women. They all fall into the category known as human interest, as opposed to hard news: They're about aspects of people's lives rather than about specific incidents. Sometimes they may spring from specific incidents, such as Marie-Susanne Langille's Last Game of the Season," which shows one player jumping into another's arms after the last-game victory. But the picture's not really about the game so much as about a moment of joy.

By and large, these works are intimate, in the sense that they typically show one or two people fairly close up in a pretty quiet moment, rather than something more impersonal such as crowd scenes, political speeches, sporting events, landscape or buildings. And although these photos depict sorrows (more often than joys), the exhibit has a positive effect because it shows people going on, even in horrible situations. It demonstrates again and again the human spirit's disinclination to give up. If the show has a theme, that's it, so maybe that's the "Woman's Point of View" of which the title speaks.

Those who live comfortable middle-class lives and think they have problems should see this show. See Janet Jarman's picture of "Marisol," a shot of a girl who stares out of the frame with a serious expression on her face, but not tragically or desperately. One would never know from the picture what its label reveals: that Marisol Rodgriguez, 9, of Maramoros, Mexico, waits at a trash dump for a garbage truck to arrive. She helps her mother pick rubbish for a living. Her mother supports eight children that way.

In Debbie Morello's "Death Vigil" a woman sits beside a bed where her mother lies dying in a makeshift hospital without medical supplies in Grozny, Chechnya. There's something about the way the woman sits that speaks of suffering and possibly exhaustion but not despair.

Sometimes the people in these pictures are at least partly responsible for their problems, such as the two heroin addicts pictured in Karen Borchers' "The Drug Is Their Love." But something in the way one of them reaches out for the other speaks about the survival of emotion and the possibility, however slight, of redemption.

On the lighter side, Susan Stocker's "Friends" shows girls playfully sticking their tongues out at one another during a break in a dance lesson. And Frances Roberts' hilarious "Primary Day" depicts elderly New York election inspector Dorothy Delmonte waiting for voters at the polling place. Surely no one has ever captured utter boredom so well.

The best pictures in the show are those, such as Roberts', that stand on their own. One doesn't need to know what this woman's doing to see that she's bored. Some of the others need the accompanying explanatory labels to have their full effect, so they're not completely independent works of art.

Photography

What: "Sharing Perspectives: A Woman's Point of View"

Where: 100 E. Pratt St., building lobby

When: 6: 30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Mondays through Fridays; through March 31

Call: 202-357-1683, Ext. 2

Pub Date: 3/13/98

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