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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Revolutionary Art

An exhibition aims to help viewers see the world differently

This Article Features Photo Zoom

Scott gave the youth complete creative freedom to create their interview questions, edit the final interviews and express themselves in anyway they wanted. He conversed with them about how the world would see them and how they would want to project themselves through styling, clothing, etc., and encouraged them to express themselves accordingly. One stereotype Scott wanted a distinct departure from, however, was the hard, angry hip-hop look, which he believes is the only imagery associated with these youth. Choosing to show the youth totally opposite from such crime-related shots that often depict them, Scott filmed the final portraits with all children against vibrant yellow backgrounds, portraying them as full of life. These kids, who associated such professional photo shoots with shows like “America’s Next Top Model,” were transformed when treated with such respect.

Scott contacted Duggal before his shoot to communicate his final installation concept to us. He wanted us to help him through all the processes of printing, fabricating and installing the final displays on-site in Philadelphia. Although Scott is a highly experienced photographer, this was his first digital photo shoot, and being unfamiliar with the digital process of filming and printing, he handed us the raw digital files and allowed us to lead him through the process of matching the saturation and vibrancy of the colors in the prints that he had intended in the photo shoot.

The critical component of this installation was the set of 12 lightboxes on which the final photographs were to be displayed. There were significant challenges in producing these lightboxes—they would be installed outdoors 24/7 and be completely exposed to the elements for over four months. They would have to be weatherproof and vandal-proof and be technically perfect to showcase the vibrant photographs. My longtime creative director Glenn Rabbach worked closely with Scott to invent lightboxes that could be buried in the ground. Issues of air ventilation to address the heat generated from the bulbs had to be specially considered along with the issue of protecting the displays from water and sun damage. We fabricated the custom lightboxes at a size of 2x6 feet to communicate the actual scale of each individual. Each lightbox was encased under a thick piece of glass, strong enough for people to walk on. Audio speakers were then installed in front of each unit. The Duggal team installed the final pieces in Philadelphia, seeing the project through to its successful completion.

The Mural Arts Program chose a symbolic site for the installation of this art project—the Family Court in downtown Philadelphia. Since the exhibit opened, the installation has attracted not just the usual visitors, but also judges and family members of defendants in the court, who all have been unanimous in their admiration for the exhibition and of the important role it plays in highlighting key issues in the city.

In reflecting on the installation, Scott says, “I want to engage the audience in the work and in the ideas behind them. These are beautiful photographs in an untraditional and in many ways an extremely wrong presentation. I am showing vibrant photographs of youth, yet in these coffins. I want them to think about why is that. Then I want them to think about the voices. It’s not an individual story; it’s a collective. I want people to know about the potential of these beautiful children, about their hopes and dreams, so that society knows about it. Listening to these kids who have so much valuable stuff to say, people will start looking at them differently.”

Scott hopes that his work enables people to see the world differently and to see the sufferings that society causes, but also to imagine how it could be different.

Baldev Duggal, president and founder of Duggal, has been innovating visual solutions for image-makers for more than 40 years. Credited with building and designing the industry’s first dip-and-dunk processing machine, Duggal has maintained his status as a leader in the imaging business and is heralded for outstanding service by consumer and trade magazines alike. With digital capabilities reaching worldwide, his headquarters covers a block on West 23rd Street in New York City.


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