Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Shadow Of The House

I recently got a chance to see Shadow Of The House, a new documentary film by Allie Humenuk that chronicles the artistic journey of photographer Abelardo Morell over the course of 7 years. For as incongruous and haphazard as the filmmaking is at times, the underlying meditations on the artistic process are quite illuminating. Morrell's photographs expose the beauty in banal everyday objects, things that are often overlooked and deemed commonplace. It is this fundamental curiosity in the world around him that transforms Morell's work from still-life studies into an exploration of the subtle beauties that surround us. At one point in the film, he declares, "It is more fun to photograph the thing, than it to show it." This seeming disinterest in the marketable, "end product" mentality that many contemporary photographers possess enables Morell the artistic liberation to distill these uncharacteristic nuances.

While watching Shadow Of The House I was introduced to Morell's early street photography. He speaks of being highly influenced by masterful street poets such as Robert Frank and Henri Cartier-Bresson. Having only been familiar with Morell's later work, I was pleasantly surprised by his lyrical and spontaneous approach to the street.

The most interesting and poignant part of the film comes toward the end when Morell is commissioned to travel to his native Cuba to make photographs. Conflicted about going, and not wanting to betray his parents wishes, he struggles with the notion of unearthing his Cuban heritage. Ultimately he does go and reconnects with his familial and cultural roots. While visiting with family, Abelardo absorbs first-hand the sorrow and emotional unrest inflicted upon the people by the Castro dictactorship. He explains his reasons for going when stating:

"Trying to figure out the past and not let it haunt you...was the reason I went back...Not letting the demons of memory dictate what I felt about the place."

Photography allowed Morell the opportunity to face his past and almagamate it with the present. Cultural identity is an extremely important element in peoples lives, especially for those who have become expatriates. Abelardo Morell's trip to Cuba appeared cathartic, finally enabling resolution to the 40 void in his cultural lineage.

From Top to Bottom:

Laura and Brady in the Shadow of Our House, 1994

Two Men Behind Glass, 1979

Lisa, Co. Clare, Ireland, 1978

Camera Obscura Image of El Vedado, Havana, Looking Northwest, 2002

All images Copyright Abelardo Morell