Rosalind Fox Solomon documents individuals caught in the throes of the past

Reading Time: 5 minutes

This article is printed in the latest issue of British Journal of Photography magazine, Activism & Protest, delivered direct for you with an 1854 Subscription.

The American photographer’s new guide, The Forgotten , trials an organic hierarchy of power between the sheltered, the remembered, and the forgotten

Rosalind Fox Solomon is showing on her sprawling, decades-long career. The American photographer offers documented momentous events within our world’s social history, like postwar Cambodia, apartheid in South Africa, and Northern Ireland during the Troubles. She has captured devastating natural disasters and unfathomable global poverty. “It is crazy when I appear back on it now. Mainly because I would just go: jump from the end of the world plus go somewhere, ” the particular 91-year-old admits.

Fox Solomon began taking photographs inside 1968, while living in the particular American South. Prior to that, she had been working for The Experiment in International Living – an organisation financed by a non-profit that offers social, art, language and neighborhood programmes for US high-school students. The work allowed her to travel all over America, but also other areas of the world. It was on one of these trips that Fox Solomon began to document and express herself through image-making with her Instamatic digital camera. Throughout her vast profession, she photographed people’s resilience; relationships with one another in both joy and pain. Her interest in culture and people continued, plus underpins the images that we see today.  

Rosalind Fox Solomon. ‘Istanbul, Turkey, 1994’ in the Forgotten (MACK, 2021). Courtesy the artist and MACK.

Rosalind Fox Solomon. ‘New Orleans, Louisiana, 1992’ from The Ignored (MACK, 2021). Courtesy the particular artist and MACK.

Her new book, The Forgotten , spans six continents and five decades, from 1974 to 2019. Published simply by Mack , the book, “raises consciousness about events that have been forgotten about, ” Fox Solomon states. “Most of us don’t think about what happened when the nuclear bomb was dropped, what happened to the people; the fact that there are mines nevertheless going off in the fields of Cambodia, many years after the end of the war there… That’s what was in the back of our mind: to face some of these questions or situations directly. In order to confront people with them. ”   

Fox Solomon captions many of her black-and-white pictures with city, country and year. Some image-caption pairings speak for themselves: in Johannesburg, South Africa, 1988, a Black housekeeper kneels on the floor next to a smiling white mother and daughter, who are both sitting down in an armchair; in Auschwitz, Poland, 2003 dozens of prosthetic legs lie discarded inside a pile.

Rosalind Fox Solomon. ‘New York, New York, 1987’ through the Forgotten (MACK, 2021). Good manners the artist and MACK.

Rosalind Fox Solomon. ‘Ancash, Peru, 1981’ through
The Forgotten (MACK, 2021). Courtesy the artist plus MACK.

Rosalind Fox Solomon

Other times, Sibel Solomon’s captions heighten the particular stakes of her pictures, reframing them against the background of a moment in history which is not immediately distinguishable. In one image, a boy sits on his father’s shoulders, waving a north american flag. The lenses of his father’s sunglasses reflect the flash of Fox Solomon’s camera like 2 small explosions. The caption – New York, New York, 2001 – suggests an oblique yet charged portrait of nationalism and crisis within the era of 9/11. In another, a young man dotted with skin lesions dons a graphic T-shirt reading, “Nuclear war? There goes my career! ”. The caption is New York, Ny, 1987. The image, already reckoning with the threat of nuclear war, is reframed by another apocalypse: the Helps crisis.  

Other pictures capture catastrophes less acquainted to western readers: the mangled bus lies toppled over in Ancash, Peru, in 1981 after the region was devastated by earthquakes. The wall of a house in 1993 Yugoslavia can be pockmarked with bullet openings, following years of political turmoil that culminated in the country’s collapse. These are histories ‘forgotten’ – or ignored by – western consciousness. Fox Solomon reminds us of them.  

“I can’t imagine doing the work right now, but for years I just decided where it might be interesting to go, and I just went. ”

Rosalind Monk Solomon. ‘Belfast, Northern Ireland in europe, 1990’ from The Forgotten (MACK, 2021). Courtesy the musician and MACK.

Rosalind Fox Solomon. ‘Hiroshima Maiden, Los Angeles, California, 1986’ from your Forgotten (MACK, 2021). Politeness the artist and MACK.

The edit of the book does not follow any chronological or geographic reasoning. Consecutive pages jump from 2016 Cuba to 1990 Tokyo. Still, the story is gripping, and steadily unfurls into subjects which are harder to confront plus accept. Echoes of comparable scenes between decades display us that when history repeats itself, it does so more severely. Images of people missing eyes and fingers within the book’s early pages cave in to those with more severe injuries and disfigurements. Many of these fit in with survivors of nuclear bombs and mine explosions. An image of Princeton University alumni marching in a reunion march is followed by one of purposefully dressed American veterans with missing limbs. On the subsequent page are two Vietnamese men; one with a mutilated face and one holding themselves upright with suspension bands. The sequence of The particular Forgotten reveals a complicated pecking order of power between the unmarked, the remembered, and the forgotten

For Fox Solomon, making this narrative was a good iterative process. “It’s just putting things in, and taking them out, and going over and over all of them, ” she says. “Somehow it seems to come together. This took a long time. ” Basically, Fox Solomon followed her instincts, just as she has all through her career. “I can’t imagine doing it right now, however for years I just decided exactly where it might be interesting to go, and am just went, ” she says.  

“As a professional photographer, I find it difficult to talk about the pictures because I don’t really want to. I want people to derive something from them and bring their very own experiences to the pictures. ”

Rosalind Fox Solomon. ‘Mexico, 1985’ from The Forgotten (MACK, 2021). Courtesy the artist and MACK.

Despite Fox Solomon’s spontaneity, not every place was easily accessible – especially areas emaciated by wars or natural disasters. Recounting her trip to Cambodia in the early 1990s, Fox Solomon explains how she had to travel “under false pretences. I had the letter from someone within the embassy in Thailand – he wrote an untrue letter introducing me as a representative of the United Nations. ”

Sibel Solomon is not interested in retracing history. “I am not really a photojournalist, ” she states. She is an artist, attuned to the energies of the individuals and places she pictures, and to the ephemerality of a shared moment. The greatest problem of her career continues to be getting people’s permission in order to photograph them. “But I’ve always managed to do that. It is pretty nonverbal. A lot just has to do with looking at people plus somehow having something take place between me and the person I want to photograph. Just performing it. ”

This unspoken link between Fox Solomon plus her subjects yields spectacular results: portraits that expand the life force and pain of those caught in the throes of history. The people we see in The particular Forgotten are usually captured in passing: their particular stories are not revisited or explored in full. They are encountered. But these glimpses of unimaginable suffering tell a story on to themselves. Each image is really as specific as it is symbolic. Those depicted are both the face behind the event and the face of the event.  

“As a photographer, I find it difficult to discuss my pictures because I don’t really want to. I want people to obtain something from them and bring their own experiences to the pictures, ” says Fox Solomon, who is not prescriptive about how viewers should engage with her work. “I don’t want analysing my own pictures. ” This ethos informs her practice more broadly. Fox Solomon does not have a specific agenda. Nevertheless, her subjects tolerate the scars of chronicles both global and personal, legendary and quotidian. The more incredible the pain, the more likely it is to end up being forgotten, to be erased by those who inflicted it. The particular photographer has witnessed the particular suffering, and asks other people to do the same.  

Nurit Chinn

Nurit Chinn is a playwright and freelance journalist. A recent graduate student of Yale University using a degree in English Reading, Nurit has published work in Wallpaper* Magazine, Off Assignment, and the Yale Daily News.

Zero Newer Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *