Description

For the last fifteen years, Gregory Halpern has been photographing in Omaha, Nebraska, steadily compiling a lyrical, if equivocal, response to the American Heartland. In loosely-collaged spreads that reproduce his construction-paper sketchbooks, Halpern takes pleasure in cognitive dissonance and unexpected harmonies, playing on a sense of simultaneous repulsion and attraction to the place. Omaha Sketchbook is ultimately a meditation on America, on the men and boys who inhabit it, and on the mechanics of aggression, inadequacy, and power.

Photographers have a way of organizing/simplifying the chaos that is the world around us. And it is said that photography is uniquely suited to ‘reflect’ the world around us, but what if our surroundings are complex to the point of being visually and verbally indescribable? That conundrum is the reality I want to reflect, with the creation of a rightfully impenetrable thing.

Gregory Halpern
© Gregory Halpern | Magnum Photos

Gregory Halpern grew up in Buffalo, New York—a place that was a formative visual influence and which continues to be an inspiration to him. When he was fourteen, he had a transformative experience looking at Triptychs, a book of photographs by the local photographer Milton Rogovin, a man who had not picked up a camera until his fifties and who worked largely in obscurity until his eighties. Since then, the photobook has remained a point of fascination for Halpern, and has been the central medium of Halpern’s creative output.

Though Halpern says he is primarily motivated by the desire to “create” rather than “document”, his work is powerfully affecting. A study of working conditions for janitorial staff at Harvard, created while he was a student there, resulted in a successful bid for the minimum wage and was published as a book, Harvard Works Because We Do (2003). While his images of life in post-industrial towns of the American Rust Belt were published to critical acclaim in A (2011), and show resilience in the face of harsh social and economic realities. Halpern became a Magnum nominee member in 2018.

© Gregory Halpern | Magnum Photos

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