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Helen M. Stummer “No Easy Walk”: Raw, Bold, Intimate

October 4, 2011

“No Easy Walk.”

It’s more than the title of an exhibit of photographs by Helen M. Stummer now open at Brookdale College’s Center for Visual Art. The name encompasses Stummer’s difficult journey as she documents the lives of the impoverished, dispossessed and isolated. A life’s work that has taken Stummer to places few else are willing to go either  geographically or emotionally.  And it speaks to the lives of struggle brought into focus through her lens.

The nearly 80 photographs comprising this exhibit, on view till November 5th, include Stummer’s very first work-an extensive series from East 6th Street in Lower Manhattan beginning in 1977.  It was a pre-gentrified era, when the New York Times called it the “meanest street in America.”  Stummer tells the story of being assigned to photograph on East 6th Street while taking courses at the International Center For Photography (ICP) and being terrified of the neighborhood. She didn’t understand why all of her pictures were coming out blurry until one day she looked down and saw her hands shaking as she held the camera.

That marked the beginning of overcoming her fear and capturing unforgettable images on three continents.

This exhibit also holds a special place for me. I worked with Helen putting it together. We met in 2005 when I interviewed her for the debut episode of ON THE SCENE and we became the greatest of friends.  She’s responsible for my curating debut four years ago when she asked me to curate what became a highly acclaimed retrospective.

And so, on four consecutive weekends this summer we laid out photograph after photograph in her studio and living room deciding which would go in this exhibit.   It was one of the most creatively satisfying experiences of my career.

For more on the photography of Helen M. Stummer visit http://www.hmstummer.com.

 

 

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