October 7 – November 6, 2010
Larry Towell (b. 1953, Chatham, Ontario)
The gallery is pleased to present its sixth exhibition of work by Larry Towell. As a student of Fine Arts at York University, he was schooled in the basics of photography, learning to use a camera and process black-and-white film. Along with poetry, prose and music, Towell began to utilize photography as a tool to explore the inherent inequalities of society, a pursuit that he continues to this day.
Dwellings isolates a selection of photographs Towell has made while working on a number of separate projects that are all investigations of land and belonging. Believing that land makes people who they are, and that the loss of land is synonymous with a loss of identity, Towell has engaged with families living in dire conditions in such places as Beirut, the Gaza Strip, South Africa and Afghanistan. This exhibition looks at traces of the human condition as evidenced by remnants of the inhabitants’ existence.
Larry Towell is the first Canadian born member of the prestigious Magnum Photos Agency, whose photographers bridge the divide between journalism and art, and between the objective statement and the personal point of view. Towell’s work is exhibited and collected around the world. He has won many international photo awards including the Henri Cartier-Bresson Award (first recipient); the World Press Photo of the Year; The Hasselblad Award; The Alfred Eisenstadt Award; and The Prix Nadar. He is the author of 11 books, including: The World from My Front Porch (Archive of Modern Conflict / Bulger Gallery Press, 2008); The Cardboard House (Trolley, 2008); No Man’s Land (Chris Boot, 2005); The Mennonite’s (Phaidon, 2000); Then Palestine (Aperture, 1998) and El Salvador (W. W. Norton & Company, 1997).
About Larry Towell
Towell was raised in a large rural family, the son of an auto body repairman. As a teenager his father once scolded him for wanting to drive to Florida with a friend. It was too far from home and he would be corrupted by the distance. While Towell studied visual arts at York University in Toronto (1972 –76), he was given a camera and taught how to process black-and-white film. He brought the camera home, because there was no other place on earth he wanted to photograph more.
During a stint of volunteer work in Calcutta in 1976, he began photographing and writing, questioning the distribution of wealth, and issues of land and landlessness. When he returned, he supported himself and his family by teaching folk music for several years. In 1984, he also became a freelance photographer and writer, focusing on the dispossessed, exile, and peasant rebellion. He completed projects on the Nicaraguan contra war, the relatives of the ‘Disappeared’ of Guatemala, and US Vietnam veterans who had returned to help rebuild war-damaged Vietnam.
His first published magazine essay, “Paradise Lost,” was about the ecological consequences of the Exxon Valdez catastrophe in Prince William Sound, Alaska. His experience as a poet in the 1970s and as a folk musician in the 1980s did much to shape his style.
Everywhere he travels he concentrates on intimacy. In 1997, Towell completed a major story on the Palestinians. In 1996, he completed a project based on ten years of reportage in El Salvador. His fascination with landlessness simultaneously led him to the Mennonite migrant workers of Mexico, a ten year work-in-progress. Towell and his family lives and sharecrops a seventy-five acre farm.
Towell has exhibited broadly in Europe and North America and his work is housed in major collections. His reportage has appeared in magazines that include: The New York Times, LIFE, GEO and Stern. Towell has been the recipient of photography awards that include several World Press and Pictures of the Year awards, the Henri Cartier-Bresson Award, a Eugene Smith, the Oskar Barnak, Ernst Haas, Roloff Beny, Alfred Eisenstadt, and a Hasselblad award. In 1988, he became a nominee for Magnum Photo Agency and in 1993 he became a full member.