On “If Voting Changed Things” exhibit with Orin Langelle
By: Staff Writer
Two women sit about face as your eyes are led down the sidewalk. The majority makes strides to move forward seeing their own personal idea of change. Fists form in a sea of bobbing heads.
Orin Langelle has opened up an art exhibit on Buen Vivir gallery located at 148 Elmwood Avenue in Buffalo, NY entitled “If Voting Changed Things.” Langelle is featuring photos he took inside and outside of the 1972 Republican convention, as well as photos from the 2004 Democratic and Republican conventions. The exhibit opened on October 7thand there is a daily stream of visitors coming in to view the work.
Langelle worked with Cornell Capa (brother to famed war photographer Robert Capa) and the International Center of Photography in Manhattan earlier in his career. One of the big things he learned in New York is to take meaningful photos. Langelle takes a situational approach to his photography– his interaction with subjects ranges from none at all to in-depth.
Orin has made it a goal of his work to document dissent and protest. He says it is very important for people to become politically active in their communities. When asked about his work overall, he said “I’ve documented a lot of protests, they have been one of the main themes of my life. There have been major anti-globalization protests and there have been laws passed in this country to crack down on protests.”
Opposition to war in Vietnam brought many to protest the 1972 Republican convention. Vietnam Veterans Against the War, (VVAW) were a powerful organization that held attention of the American public. Langelle notes that “some [Vietnam War Veterans] threw their medals over the White House gate.” The public was becoming more aware with America’s role in world affairs and some held a critical view of America’s approach to foreign affairs. The Women’s movement, environmental movement, and a growing open recognition of the LGBT community added fuel to the fire ofthe 1972 as well.
Langelle covered protests outside of the Democratic and Republican National Conventions in 2004. The Democratic convention had what were called ‘Free Speech Zones’: “Protesters weren’t allowed anywhere near the convention, they were allowed in an area called the protest pit. It’s one thing to protest where people will see you; it’s another thing to protest in a hole where no one will see.”
He was also allowed inside the 2004 convention. Langelle talked about a Photo of John Kerry and John Lennon together posted at the entrance of the 2004 Democratic convention, calling it “very interesting because of Kerry’s views on the Iraq war.” Despite his time inside the convention center, he “went to the republican and democratic conventions to see what was going on in the streets, because the political process in this country, to me, is entirely broken.”
When asked about the Republican Convention in 2004, Langelle shared his experience of talking with New Yorkers. There “were a lot of different protests going on simultaneously, there was an emphasis on AIDS and healthcare, and the climate. It just wasn’t the war in Iraq but that did get a lot of people there. By being in New York, I learned new Yorkers were outraged that Bush had a convention there. They were outraged Bush was using 9/11 for rhetoric.”
Langelle feels that “between 1972 and now, things have gotten worse over time.” He says the biggest difference between 1972 and now is the resistance put up against the political and economic system. When speaking about young men of color drafted during the war, he said “why should I, when discriminated against here, go over and kill people that are another color than white over there”?
Langelle has spent years taking photos of indigenous peoples and their experience with climate change. He can get to places where few photographers are. For instance, he was invited to Paraguay to document what was happening to the locals in the country:
“I was able to photograph the first, what they’re now calling concentration camps of the Ayoreo people in Paraguay. These tribes are moving further and further away from civilization. I was asked to come in from the leader of the community to take pictures. He wanted me to see what he saw. I made sure the photos I took went back to their community.”
Langelle says there are “tremendous problems in this country with climate change… Nothing is being done about the situation in a proactive way by any government.” He believes people now are realizing that the earth is finite, for too long resources were taken out of the earth with no regard to their use. In Orin’s view, “Too few politicians are representing the needs of the working class and the planet. Only regular people can address the climate crisis because government will not make systemic change.”
Langelle’s work provides a perspective on the world that is becoming more recognized by the public. He says “we don’t think we live in a democracy and I don’t think we live in a democracy because we don’t have a well-informed public, and we don’t have a well-informed public because the media is controlled by corporate entities.” He presents the example of working in St. Louis for public radio. Orin wanted the station to cover a story on Monsanto, but they would not do so because the station was receiving funding from Monsanto Corporation.
We asked Langelle which big issues he felt were not addressed in the 2016 general election cycle. He would have liked to see more discussion America’s problems with the healthcare system, prison population, systemic racism and climate change
He is working on archiving his photos for future generations. Langelle finds it important that photographers and journalists leave their work to history to be viewed and interpreted by others: “People say [to me] you work for non-profits, therefore,you’re not an objective journalist. Well no, I’m not an objective journalist. I don’t believe there are any objective journalists. What about the people working for the New York Times? They’re being paid by corporations. I’m trying to tell the truth about what I see.”
The art exhibit will be pushed on social media and in his international network of contacts more than it has been before now that Election Day is approaching. The exhibit’s closing reception takes place the first Friday, December 2nd2016, from 6-9 p.m. The gallery is located at 148 Elmwood Avenue in Buffalo.