Photographs by Alex Harris, Amanda Berg, Rachel Boillot, & Jennifer Stratton

March 5 - June 26, 2016, Photography Gallery in the Rubenstein Library

Reception & Artist Talk: April 28, 2016, 4:00-7:00pm, Rubenstein Photography Gallery

Where We Live: A North Carolina Portrait is a documentary photography project on housing and living conditions in North Carolina. The exhibit features the 1971–72 work of acclaimed documentary photographer Alex Harris, a Duke professor and cofounder of the school’s Center for Documentary Studies, and contemporary work by three of his former students, all graduates of Duke’s MFA in Experimental and Documentary Arts program: Rachel Boillot, Jennifer Stratton, and Amanda Berg.

Where We Live has its roots in an assignment of Harris’s from the 1970s, through a grant from Duke’s Sanford School of Public Policy, to photograph substandard housing and living conditions in North Carolina. In 2014, Harris turned to Berg, Boillot, and Stratton to tackle the same broad assignment, choosing their own visual, geographic, and thematic approaches. With funding from The Annenberg Foundation of Los Angeles, Berg made portraits of former factory workers, women whose jobs disappeared as textile, furniture, and tobacco factories closed across the state; Boillot photographed migrant workers who harvest Christmas trees and pick crops in the eastern and western parts of the state; and Stratton explored a group of counties whose low-income neighborhoods have experienced the greatest burden of environmental damage across generations.

Harris writes, “Our photographs are separated by forty-four years. By exhibiting our pictures at the Rubenstein Library gallery, we hope to show some of the ways in which the State of North Carolina has changed. Our different styles and approaches to photography also hint at how the practice of documentary photography has developed during this same period. But at least one thing remains constant. Photography then and now allows us to see the human dimensions of policy issues, to connect issues to individual lives and—if as photographers we have been successful—to see and feel something of our common humanity.”

Where We Live featured on WUNC's "The State of Things." Listen to the interview here:

The exhibition is supported by Duke University’s Archive of Documentary Arts at the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, MFA in Experimental and Documentary ArtsCenter for Documentary Studies, and Sanford School of Public Policy.

We wish to acknowledge Joel Fleishman who as director of the Institute for Policy Sciences in 1971 had the inspiration for the 1971-72 work on this project, Anne Reynolds Forsyth for funding the 1971-72 fieldwork in North Carolina, The Annenberg Foundation for their support of 2014-2015 fieldwork, and the Duke Council for the Arts for their Collaborative Development Grant that supported the printing of photographs for this exhibition and for the Archive of Documentary Arts.

More About the Photographers

Alex Harris is a documentary photographer, writer, and teacher, who has photographed extensively in the American South.  Harris has published fifteen books and his photographs are in major museum collections around the world. He is a founder of DoubleTake Magazine and on of the founders of the Center for Documentary Studies. Harris has taught at Duke for thirty-five years.

Amanda Berg is a documentary photographer and filmmaker whose work explores the boundaries of identity formation. A former Lewis Hine Documentary Fellow and Alexia Foundation Grant recipient, Amanda is currently a staff photographer at the Patriot News/PennLive in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania

Rachel Boillot is a photographer, documentary artist and educator. She has recently served as a Visiting Lecturer in Photography at Duke University, Assistant Producer at Sandrock Recordings, and a Multimedia Documentarian for the Cumberland Trail Musical Heritage Project. Her photographs and publications are housed in numerous collections worldwide.

Jennifer Stratton is a documentary photographer, animator and educator.  Her community-based work often explores in-depth relationships between individuals, cultures and the natural world. She has recently worked as an instructor at Duke University Franklin Humanities Institute, Vision Workshops, and Platteforum’s Art Lab in Denver, Colorado.