.Photographers Frame the Election in ‘From Where I Stand’ at MACLA

Art and politics have always gone hand in hand. More than just a creative pastime or a luxury for the rich, art can be a tool for hope and change. 

With this year’s looming presidential election, voters are considering big issues like inflation, health care, crime, immigration, gun control and abortion. And there’s no visual medium better suited to documenting such issues than photography.

The six photographers featured in “From Where I Stand,” the current exhibit at MACLA (Movimiento de Arte y Cultura Latino Americana), tackle topics that are both personal to them and also will be up for debate in the coming months.

Mostly from the Bay Area, the artists are interested less in siding with either presidential candidate and more in sparking political and social discourse, even encouraging people to vote.

“Because it is an election year, we did want to see how art can influence the political landscape,” curator Alyssarhaye Graciano says. “Not so much tying the artist to any sort of campaign, but just emphasizing what those issues look like in our direct community and how the power of art could inspire somebody to take an active role to preserve the rights and opportunities that we have in black and brown communities.”

Captured Moments

Xelestiál Moreno-Luz uses San Diego transgender female activist Jamie Arangure in her photographs to advocate for transgender migrants. William Camargo focuses on gentrification in his home town of Anaheim. Stephanie Barajas explores migrants at the border and the debate over DACA. And Miguel Ozuna, an assistant director of photography and digital asset manager at Santa Clara University, documents the now-vacant MACSA youth center in East San Jose, where plans for demolition have been stalled.

UNDERUTILIZED ‘The American Dream’ is part of a series that documents the now-vacant MACSA youth center in East San Jose. Photo by Miguel Ozuna

Photographer Alex Knowbody shows a series of black-and-white images of the protests in San Jose immediately following George Floyd’s murder in 2020.

“I never took the photos and did anything with them,” Knowbody says. “I thought that this was a perfect time to be able to showcase these photos. How everybody was feeling during the pandemic, the police brutality, that racism.”

He reflects that four years later, “it doesn’t seem to have changed much. So I was thinking that hopefully these photos can help invoke the feeling that we had back in the 2020s during the pandemic and the Trump era. And hopefully it can lead us in the right direction when trying to cast our votes. My whole thing is humanity. I don’t hate the police, but I really hate the fact that they abuse their power. What I’m trying to tell here is to look out for other people. They think it’s just a job. And humanity is more than just a job.”

Personal and Political

Adriana Martin takes a more intimate approach in her portraits, also in black and white, of her parents, who lived in Napa Valley. During the COVID-19 lockdown, Martin says she felt a “divine pull to just urgently document life around me and of my loved ones.” So she began photographing her mother as she went through the daily routine of preparing her late, diabetic father’s medication, and praying afterward. Martin wants to draw attention to the threat of cuts to Medicare and Medicaid benefits.

DOCUMENTED Adriana Martin photographed her mother preparing medication for her diabetic father.

“I just wanted to give an inside look at my family’s experience that so many people go through,” says Martin. “It’s such a quiet, tender but heavy thing to see. Facing our parents’ mortality and our own mortality, healthcare and then caregiving. … It can be an overwhelming, lonely journey. I’ve really leaned into this creative act of just documenting and taking everything in.”

She adds, “I really encourage people to document their own family. Document your parents, your loved ones’ hands, those everyday moments. At the end of the day, all we have left are photos and videos. Don’t discount how powerful they can be.”

The gallery will provide cameras and encourage visitors to take photographs of themselves at the exhibit, which will be incorporated into the show at the end of its run.

“For me, it’s really wanting the San Jose community and the local community of the Bay Area to understand that MACLA is a place for them,” says Graciano. “So that folks can physically see themselves in MACLA and know that they’re welcomed and respected here. And they can also feel empowered to share their voice, their perspectives and opinions.”

From Where I Stand is on view through Aug. 11 at MACLA (Movimiento de Arte y Cultura Latino Americana), 510 S 1st St, San Jose. 408.998.2783. Admission free; open Wed-Fri, noon-7pm, Sat-Sun, noon-5pm. maclaarte.org


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