“I believe that everyone has a great story to tell, and often people don’t realize their own narrative gift. I like to tell others’ stories, but more often, I like to empower others to believe their story is worth sharing. Especially when it challenges a narrative being told by a more powerful entity.”
Thus Urmila explains her passion for visual ethnographies, or the art and practice of studying particular communities and representing them visually. While primarily a photographer, she dabbles in drawing to bring to life South Asian communities in urban areas of the US. Recent work has examined “how immigrants root themselves in public spaces to create ethnic enclaves and centers of community.”
When asked what figure from history she would most like to talk with, she replied, “Raghubir Singh documented his native India in an unparalleled style, with a profound ability to translate movement and power and noise into a still image.” If she had the chance to sit and talk over dinner, she would quiz him on his thoughts behind the published work, “particularly about the Western gaze, about India in a colonial and post-colonial age, about what it means to make photographs as an insider or an outsider.”
by Urmila Venkatesh
Alan grew up in Mentor, Ohio, a rustbelt town surrounded by a variety of ecological and human-made systems, and became fascinated with the relationships between these two environments. Alan moved to Southern California to attend Pomona College, majoring in a very unique concentration: Integrated Political and Economic Systems in Historical Context. Despite his Midwestern roots, he took to eternal sunshine with ease.
Alan’s fascination with the natural landscape frames the list of places he’d like to visit or return to. In addition to Malawi, Australia, and Namibia, Alan names Botswana’s Okavongo Delta and the Sundarban Islands in India as destinations that gave him “a penchant for seeing disappearing ecosystems before they are no more.” This exploratory urge is not limited to locations abroad; if he had access to a car, and an extra day in the weekend, he would be found exploring abandoned areas in Detroit. Lacking a car, however, he is happy to settle for a breakfast of Washtenaw Dairy Ice Cream and a snowy game of Frisbee golf.
by Jon Cohen
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