Brenda Ann Kenneally: Upstate Girls

Upstate Girls Brenda Kenneally coverA book collecting Brenda Ann Kenneally's ongoing work documenting the lives of people living through poverty in Troy -- Upstate Girls -- was published in October. (You might remember the North Troy Peoples' History Museum.)

From the book description (link added):

Brenda Ann Kenneally is the Dorothea Lange of our time--her work a bridge between the people she photographs, history, and us. What began as a brief assignment for The New York Times Magazine became an eye-opening portrait of the rise and fall of the American working class, and a shockingly intimate visual history of Troy that arcs over five hundred years. Kenneally beautifully layers archival images with her own photographs and collages to depict the transformations of this quintessentially American city. The result is a profound, powerful, and intimate look at America, at poverty, at the shrinking middle class, and of people as they grow, survive, and love.

This month Adrian Nicole LeBlanc -- who wrote that NYT Mag article -- takes up Kenneally's book in The New Yorker. A clip:

Shaming people who live in poverty is an old reflex in America. Kenneally reminds us that the fault lines of capitalism are everywhere within our nation, running through the very foundation we keep building upon. Her excavations blast through any attempt to deny it. In her book's opening essay, she refers to her photographs as "new fossils." With taking pictures, Kenneally writes, "comes the power to manufacture a record that future generations will consider fact." Whether we choose to look or not, these images are facts.

From Amy Biancolli's coverage of Upstate Girls last month in the Times Union:

So large, intricate and interwoven are the urban clans represented in the book that a family tree takes up four pages. You might get lost. You also might be tempted to drop the book and walk away, it's all so much. But you won't. You can't. Each photo demands your attention.

And Luke Stoddard Nathan in Troy Letter:

It's hard for me to take issue with developers undertaking extensive renovations to buildings that might otherwise languish, but after reading Kenneally's sweeping catalog of trauma and injustice in the very city where I enjoy many relative luxuries, I'm at least left with broader questions, aptly formulated by Adrian Nicole LeBlanc in the book's foreword: "[Is] there a vision for the city sufficiently expansive to encompass both former residents and newcomers alike? Will the same possibilities be extended to those who never left? Brenda doesn't want Troy's next renaissance to be built on a foundation of denial."

Kenneally is donating her portions of the proceeds from the book to the non-profit A Little Creative Class.

Comments

I caught this in the latest issue of The New Yorker..... pretty depressing as it focuses on down and out people in Troy and it kind of left me empty, particularly with the upcoming buy, buy, buy season. Granted this abject poverty exists, but..... no thanks. Sorry.

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