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Back to Exhibitions

December 5, 2002 to February 2, 2003

Stepping through the Ashes: Photographs by Eugene Richards

Interviews by Janine Altongy
Organized by the Aperture Foundation; sponsored by The Honickman Foundation

The Philadelphia Art Alliance is pleased to host the first exhibition in Philadelphia of eminent photojournalist Eugene Richards's work. Richards is renowned for his publications of black and white images that explore difficult social issues, ranging from emergency room care, to families living in poverty, to drug addiction, to gun violence. On view from December 5 to February 2, 2003, Richards's most recent project, in collaboration with Janine Altongy, is titled Stepping Through the Ashes, a phrase invoked in a eulogy for a fallen firefighter. Richards's photographs of the aftermath of September 11th in New York are paired with excerpts of interviews conducted by Altongy. Richards draws broader historical significance from Ground Zero than its designation as the site of the former World Trade Center. He regards it as an "ever-evolving repository for the missing, a focal point for grieving, for remembering, for reflection, for self-examination." He also draws comparisons with the Warsaw Ghetto, Sarajevo, the firebombing of Dresden, the blitz on London, and Hiroshima--other ruined cities where innocent lives were lost.

Altongy interviewed firefighters, a police officer, an equity trader, a building restoration worker, a funeral director, an office worker who was evacuated from the South Tower, and a father who lost his only child, among others. Richards's photographs and Altongy's excerpted interviews compliment and reinforce one another in both the exhibition and the accompanying eponymous book, published by Aperture and available for purchase through the PAA.

Eugene Richards studied photography at MIT and is the author of eleven books. Richards has also worked as a freelance editorial photographer for publications such as LIFE, The New York Times Magazine, The London Sunday Times and Granta. Richards is the recipient of numerous photography awards, including the W. Eugene Smith Memorial Award and the Robert F. Kennedy Lifetime Achievement Journalism Award for his coverage of the disadvantaged. Richards is also the recipient of fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, and OSI Project on Death In America. Richards's first book was Dorchester Days (1978; reprinted in 2001). His subsequent books include: Exploding Into Life (1986) which won the Nikon Book of the Year award; Below the Line: Living Poor in America (1987), for which he was named ICP Photojournalist of the Year; Cocaine True, Cocaine Blue (1994) received the Kraszna-Krausz Award for Photographic Innovation; and Americans We (1994) won the International Center of Photography's Infinity Award. Richards' film, but, the day came (2000), won the Double Take Jury Award for Best Short Film, the Eastman Kodak Cinematography Award and the Best Documentary Award at the Hope Film Festival. A touring retrospective of Richards's work premiered at the Rencontres Inernationales de la Photographies in Arles, France in July 1997.

Janine Altongy is a certified social worker, writer, video editor, and documentary film producer. Her collaborative projects with Eugene Richards include two books (Below the Line: Living Poor in America and Homeless in America), a fundraising book and film about Incarnation Children's Center, a New York City residence for children with HIV and AIDS, and Richards's award-winning short documentary film But, the day came, which she co-produced. Altongy is co-director of Many Voices, a not-for-profit media group in Brooklyn that produces socially-concerned books and films.

Tags: photography