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The Meeting Place

FotoFest sifts through thousands of images to find gold.

While the dark surreality of Iraq on the Bayou is pretty bizarre, the juxtaposition of some of the work in the show is even more so. I was looking at Liz Hickok's goofy photos of cities made from cast Jell-O when I turned the corner expecting more Jell-O and saw a photograph of the circular hole of a well cut into red dirt. At the bottom of the image was handwritten text that read, "This hole reminds me of the time we buried a woman alive."

The text is from a girl who was a child soldier in Sierra Leone. Raped and kidnapped by the Revolutionary United Front at the age of 11, the girl was forced to kill or be killed. The photographs are from Sara Terry's series "In My Life: The Story of an Ex-Girl Soldier." Working with the photographer, the girl seeks to remember and acknowledge what she has done and find a way to forgive herself. The images and text are sharp, painful glimpses into a horror we cannot even imagine. A dirt soccer field is "exactly like the one where I went through combat training." An image of an expanse of swamp reminds her of where she gave birth. This unassuming combination of image and text will stun you into silence.

Expectant parents stand in the room they have prepared for their baby in Jason and Kevin, 7 days, 2007.
Courtesy of Dona Schwartz
Expectant parents stand in the room they have prepared for their baby in Jason and Kevin, 7 days, 2007.
In Mariam's Story, 2007, African children like those stolen by rebels are shown.
Courtesy of Sara Terry
In Mariam's Story, 2007, African children like those stolen by rebels are shown.

Photographs of themed baby-room decor, art-world pretentiousness and the brutal world of a child soldier will probably never be shown together again. But the disparate nature of these images and points of view presents what becomes an inconceivably powerful range of human experience.

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