Indivisible: Stories of the American Community

Akron Art Museum

With images and words that stir the heart, Indivisible: Stories of American Community celebrates the lively state of documentary photography in America and the remarkable success of grassroots social movements across the country. The exhibition combines the power of still photography with the directness of first-person narratives in the form of audiotaped interviews that will be available to all museum visitors-to show how local heroes are changing America. Twelve of the country's most accomplished photographers visited 12 diverse communities across the nation and recorded-in images that are often poignant and always beautifully crafted-the ways in which citizens have eased poverty, soothed racial tensions, and protected the environment. Ten oral historians taped candid interviews with individuals from the 12 communities. Excerpts from those interviews are featured on free audio guides, which will be used for the first time at the Akron Art Museum. "One of the most exciting aspects of Indivisible is that it demonstrates how much documentary photography has evolved over the years," said Kathryn Wat, associate curator of exhibitions at the Akron Art Museum. "Instead of the small black and white images that characterize documentary projects of the early twentieth century, this exhibition features a variety of media, from vibrant color prints, to imaginative photo collages, to large-scale black and white photographs." With her trademark color-saturated images, California artist Lauren Greenfield records the work and play of teenagers who run a peer-counseling program in San Francisco. Renowned photographer and filmmaker Danny Lyon combines black and white images with color prints to create exciting photomontages that reflect the character of a dynamic home construction project serving migrant farm workers in south Texas. Documentary photography's ability to freeze a moment in time, to show us the special character of a particular community, has great value in a culture dominated by television and video's fast-cutting stream of images. Photography asks that we slow down to focus on a subject for more than just a moment. Lynn Davis' serene large-scale images of the Alaskan coast, where a community works to save their fragile ecosystem, have both a tranquility and monumentality that is difficult to replicate in film or video. Similarly, Eli Reed's dramatic images of an inter-faith initiative in Columbia, South Carolina, are so masterfully composed that their message becomes clear almost instantly. Yet Reed's photographs come alive when viewed in conjunction with the audio guide that features the voices of these citizens who promote racial and religious harmony in their troubled neighborhood. Among other artists included in Indivisible are Terry Evans, who created sumptuous color photographs of the scenic Yaak Valley in Montana where residents and preservationists work to establish responsible logging practices. Joan Liftin's moving photographs of a Haitian community in Florida illuminate the productive relationship that has been built between that group and the local police department. Part of a large multi-media documentary project, Indivisible lives online at an interactive website,, which provides a forum for visitors to engage in dialogue and exchange ideas on community building. Indivisible: Stories of American Community is a project of the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University in partnership with the Center for Creative Photography, the University of Arizona. Indivisible is funded by The Pew Charitable Trusts. This exhibition was organized and circulated by the Center for Creative Photography. Its presentation in Akron is made possible by a generous gift from the Akron Community Foundation. Media sponsorship provided by PBS 45 & 49.