June 14th, 6-8pm
Talk on last surviving Women with bound feet in China
photography and research
LIVING HISTORY: BOUND FEET WOMEN OF CHINA
For the past ten years I have been photographing some of the last remaining women with bound feet in China. I have interviewed all these women about their foot binding and their lives during the Cultural Revolution and the great famine in China. The photographs are all fine art pieces, captured on black and white film and printed as silver gelatin prints. A new book has just been published illustrated with photos and stories from 50 of these women. The majority are between the ages of 80 and 100 years old and are from Shandong and Yunnan Provinces. These women come from peasant backgrounds and have lived incredible lives working in the fields despite their bound feet. I feel that my work looks beyond their feet and captures a piece of history for generations to come.
ABOUT THE PHOTOGRAPHER
Jo Farrell is an award-winning black and white photographer and cultural anthropologist. Born in London, England she has been based in Hong Kong for the past nine years. Her photography work focuses on traditions and cultures that are dying out, including the project “Living History: Bound Feet Women of China.” She has been the recipient of numerous awards for her work on bound feet including a Jacob Riis Award, Black & White Spider Award, Center for Fine Art Photography and Women In Photography International winner juried by Mary Ellen Mark. She has had solo exhibitions in London, San Francisco and Hong Kong and has been included in group shows in New York, LA and Denver, Colorado. Her project has received critical acclaim and has been published internationally including The Huffington Post, Wall Street Journal, The Guardian, BBC, CNN, Stern magazine, Time Out, Fast Co., International Business Times and the South China Morning Post colour supplement. In the past year she has presented two TEDx talks (Warwick UK and Wan Chai HK) Asia House London, Victoria & Albert Museum, Barts Pathology Museum, Pitt Rivers Museum, Chinese University of HK Art Museum, PechaKucha, Hoopers Gallery (London) and Haji Gallery (Hong Kong).
Detroit is my hometown, but I’ve been gone for over three decades. As a child growing up, my father, who worked all his life for General Motors, used to joke and say that we had motor oil in our veins. Even after all these years of absence I still believe there is some small truth to what he said.
These photographs are my reaction to all the negative press that Detroit has had to endure over the past several years. I wanted to see for myself what everyone was talking about, and like everyone else I was initially drawn to the same subjects that other photographers were interested in; the crumbling factory interiors, the empty lots and burned out houses that consume a third of the city, and the massive abandoned commercial infrastructure. It took me a week of shooting this kind of subject matter to make me realize that I was contributing nothing to a subject that most everyone already knew much about, especially those who had been living there for years.
To counter this, I began looking at the various neighborhoods within the city and the people who live within them. This human condition, while troubled, struggling, and coping with the harsh reality of living in a post-industrial city that has fallen on the hardest of times, does thrive, and demonstrates that Detroit is not the city of death and decay that everyone was reporting in the media, but one that shows signs of human activity and movement. However, not withstanding the recent press about Detroit’s efforts to rebound from its recent bankruptcy, which is in all ways promising, my focus continues to rest on the current conditions that affect many of those who have fallen through the cracks, forgotten and marginalized poor people whose lives will only minimally be improved by the recent redevelopment of the city.
But whatever that outcome may be, I’ve found that most Detroiter’s wear their pride for the city they live in much like an honored badge of courage, defying all odds, openly admitting that if you can survive here, you can survive just about anywhere.
My hope is that this work will convey in many ways that Detroit is a city made up of many small communities, all building a way of life through perseverance, hope, and sheer determination. A city clinging to the vanished ideals of an urban oasis that once hailed itself as one of the most beautiful and prosperous cities in America, at one time a model city for all others to follow, but one which has now fallen from grace.
This personal project is not about what’s been destroyed, but more importantly about what’s been left behind and those who are left to cope with it.
Detroit: Unbroken Down
Text by Nancy Watson Barr, Dawoud Bey and Sharon Zukin
Trim Size: 12 1/4 x 10 1/4
Page Count: 160
Signed copies $50