Chris Verene's work came up in a class of mine today and I felt compelled to share some of the images from The Galesburg Series, a documentary project that examines his family's rural Illinois town. There is uncompromising frankness to Verene's imagery that has garnered him a certain amount of critical controversy. Critics have questioned whether his photographs cross the line of respectful representation into the realm of photographic exploitation. Although I believe that Verene's intentions are of a considerate, albeit sometimes unyielding nature, the passage below begins to address the other side of this argument. In an excerpt from the press release for an exhibition of The Galesburg Series, it states:
"Poignant, empathetic, touching, and humorous, The Galesburg Series is also frequently challenging. Verene has been compared to Walker Evans, William Eggleston, and Nan Goldin. An indication of the dynamic complexity of The Galesburg Series is the oft-debated potentially-exploitative aspect of these candid pictures. Depicting a “...semi-rural underclass that is seldom represented elsewhere, these images participate in the tradition of socially-conscious documentary-photography as well as the offbeat regionalism associated with William Eggelston,” asserts Philip Auslander, writing in ArtForum in 2004. Auslander goes on to ponder the fine line between representation and exploitation, as each viewer is also left to reach his own conclusion."
All photographs from The Galesburg Series
All Images © Chris Verene