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Photographs by Mark Tuschman

June 30, 2008 - 9:30am
Serra House, 589 Capistrano Way, Stanford, CA 94305


"Asked to define one image that represents poverty," Tuschman wrote in a recent publication of his work, "I would choose that of a woman and child." That iconography is certainly a familiar part of the American canon, most famously rendered in Dorothea Lange's Migrant Mother, an image that defined a generation of economic hardship and continues to resonate to this day. In this mode of photography, a woman is at once herself, unique in her appearance and moment, and also more than herself, a symbolic survivor of battles greater than her own personal hardships. Though an invocation of a general problem through the lens of an individual can blur the details of that person's story as it broadens our focus, that loss of specificity can also help us to see more clearly the kinds of crises that afflict women worldwide. Tuschman's photographs of women take us to places distant from our own. Shot in conjunction with nonprofit organizations in Bangladesh, Tanzania, and Ghana, these pictures offer us a portal into worlds many of us will never see firsthand. In that sense the photographs act as a bridge, shrinking the physical expanse between subject and viewer. At the same time, an enormous gap remains, that of experience. The women we see have suffered gender-based brutality and discrimination on a scale that is difficult to imagine, made necessary decisions regarding their children that seem to us impossible, and fought for their own bodies in a way that we need not fight. Via Tuschman's photographs, their presence reminds us of the lack of autonomy that women in developing countries have over their bodies and the many basic reproductive health problems that they face. The majority of Tuschman's work on display at Serra House comes from his work with EngenderHealth in Bangladesh and Tanzania. EngenderHealth is an international reproductive health organization working to improve the quality of health care in the world's poorest communities. This nonprofit operates in more than forty countries around the world, focusing on the most pressing health issues facing women in each one. Tuschman's photographs appear throughout the organization's website, personifying its cause.

Event Sponsor: 
Clayman Institute for Gender Research
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