Indivisible began with an idea to use photography to represent what it looks like when Americans get together and get involved in local issues that affect their lives and the quality of their community. Broadly taken, those issues ring familiar on a national level: the economy and employment, health, education, housing, crime prevention, immigration, religion and traditional values, cultural development, technology, race relations, the future of the environment and opportunities for the next generation. But how does a photographer represent the work and inspiration it takes for a community to address these issues locally? And how can those images be given context, who explains them? These questions led a photography project to become a photography and oral history project, ensuring that the experience of civic engagement was told by those who had met its challenges firsthand. Without the need to be as literal, the photographers could be truer to their own artistic visions, and create work that was more evocation than illustration. The parallel texts, the voices and sounds of the communities documented, offer a direct narrative link to the people, places, and grass-roots change described in the photographs. It is in this combination of interpretive image and personal testimony that Indivisible finds its particular form of documentary discourse.

The editorial and curatorial process that reduced many hundreds of images and hours of audio into this exhibition, a book, web site, and postcard exhibitions, was intended to shape and distill the already rich insights recorded by the photographers and interviewers. The contributors and the organizers of Indivisible have collectively produced a subtle and detailed story of twelve American communities and their citizen initiatives, while offering a larger, symbolic understanding of the keys to a working democracy. The identity and experience of contemporary Americans, both individuals and groups of people from across the country, come to life in the community stories, faces, and physical surroundings that work as meaningful social and cultural bellwethers for the new millennium. With the public archiving of the photographs and oral history tapes and transcripts, our hope is that this edit will not be the last history undertakes, but instead launches a unique resource for far-reaching considerations of American community life and action.

Trudy Wilner Stack, Curator of Exhibitions and Collections, Center for Creative Photography    This page last updated September 24, 2000.

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