Laura Heyman's Don't Move Again
In the run up to our next exhibition, On the Inside: Portraiture Through Photography, today we are profiling the work of Laura Heyman. In 2009, Heyman was invited to Port-au-Prince, Haiti, to produce a project for the first Ghetto Biennale, organized by the Haitian artists’ collective Atis Rezistans and the British artist Leah Gordon. Heyman set up an outdoor photo studio with a fabric backdrop in an empty lot in the city’s Grand Rue neighborhood, and using a classic 8 x 10 view camera, made portraits of any and everyone who made an appointment with her. In order to embody a meaningful exchange between herself and those she was photographing, she knew she would have to traverse the distance imposed by differences in race, class, gender, opportunity, agency and freedom of movement.
In an effort to collapse hierarchical structures inherent in the process, Heyman initiated the project with very strict parameters. Her cumbersome, old-fashioned camera, complete with tripod, bellows, a cloth over her head and heavy suitcase filled with equipment and supplies, provided a self-imposed level of labor as well as a performative dynamic to her role as a studio photographer. Instead of framing herself as an artist, Heyman positioned herself mainly as a technician, managing the lighting and exposure, with the composition of the images decided on by participants who chose to sit for a portrait. Initially, they were mostly local residents, but after the earthquake in January of 2010, the group expanded to include NGO employees, volunteers, missionaries, politicians, United Nations officials, business people and medical personnel, reflecting the dramatic influx of outsiders coming in to offer their aid, as well as the Haitian government workers and politicians who were tasked with directing the flow of donations, people and goods. Loosening the restrictions of the project’s initial studio incarnation, over the coming years, Heyman stopped using a backdrop and began asking participants to choose the location where they wanted to be photographed, reflecting more of their own perceptions about themselves and their place in society.
The resulting series, Don’t Move Again, has evolved over the course of the last decade to become an overall survey of the many people who make up the increasingly complex structure of Haitian society. It also serves as a multi-faceted record of the strong personal relationships Heyman has developed with many of the project's participants. Heyman’s work offers an in-depth view of the many ways that people from all walks of life carry institutional and societal structures in their bodies. The construct of formal portraiture, with participants determining how the world should see them, allows for their attitudes and perspectives to be expressed through the poses they choose and the energy they project.
Selections from Don’t Move Again are included in the upcoming exhibition, On the Inside: Portraiture Through Photography, which opens at C24 Gallery on Saturday, October 3rd, 2020. The exhibition explores the ways that five different photographers work “on the inside” to reveal potent observations and truths about the people they photograph, as captured through their camera’s lens. The group includes Lisa Crafts, Laura Heyman, Pixy Liao, Sven Marquardt and Marie Tomanova.

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Laura Heyman, Myrlande Constant In Her Studio, Carrefour Feuilles, 2011,
pigmented inkjet print on paper, 20 x 25in. (51 x 63.5cm)
Laura Heyman, Kathleen and Konbaton at Their Studio, Rue Du Bois/Grand Rue, 2014,
pigmented inkjet print on paper, 25 x 20in. (63.5 x 51cm)
Laura Heyman, Patrick Elie at Plaisance Restaurant, Turgeau, 2013,
pigmented inkjet print on paper, 20 x 25in. (51 x 63.5cm)
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New York, New York 10011
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