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Eugene Richards is one of America's greatest living social documentary photographers. His intense vision and unswerving commitment to documenting the plight of the disadvantaged has produced powerful work on topics such as drug addiction, poverty, the mentally disabled, ageing and the personal consequences of war. The Blue Room is his first colour project, a moving, highly personal project that brings together the themes that encompass all of Richards' work - what he describes as the 'transient nature of things'. The photographs are portraits of the abandoned and forgotten houses of western America in areas such as the plains of Kansas, Nebraska, New Mexico and the Dakotas. In the early twentieth century, railroads lured settlers west with the promises of homesteads and towns rose across the plains. But in the wake of the Depression and the dust storms of the 1930s the towns faltered then failed. Richards enigmatic photographs of these forgotten homes are a meditation on memory and loss - family photographs stuck on a wall, a wedding dress hanging in a bedroom, snow falling on a bed by an open window, a wild horse standing at an open kitchen window. Richards' contemplative, beautiful photographs inspire us to imagine the lives of the former occupants, and make a quiet statement on the inevitability of the circle of life and death, and the vulnerability of man in the face of shifting economic opportunities and the climate.
In some countries, they call them the abandonados, the abandoned ones. They're the impoverished mentally ill and mentally disabled patients being warehoused in psychiatric asylums that are more run-down, more uncaring than the most brutal American prisons. Confined in cage-like cells, tied to beds soiled with human waste, medicated to the point of senselessness, or wandering naked in unheated and garage-like wards, they live in what can only be called the shadows, their plight unseen and too easily ignored by the rest of the human family. Working first as a journalist, later as a volunteer for the human rights organization Mental Disability Rights International, photographer Eugene Richards gained access to psychiatric institutions in Mexico, Argentina, Armenia, Hungary, Paraguay, and Kosovo. His wrenchingly intimate images reveal the often inhumane treatment suffered by the mentally disabled. Offered little that would qualify as effective care, patients are denied even the most basic human amenities: privacy, protection from harm, clean clothing. Accompanying the book, A Procession of Them, is a DVD of a short film of the same name. Directed and narrated by Richards, this unique and expressionistic film speaks of the chaos, claustrophobia, and loneliness of these living hells. Making us face some hard truths, A Procession of Them drives home the point that when it comes to the plight of the mentally disabled, no one much cares. As Richards concludes, it's as if there is a kind of worldwide agreement that once people are classified as mentally ill or mentally retarded, you're free to do to them what you want.
The Fat Baby is an epic collection of poignant and often controversial stories photographed and written by acclaimed social documentary photographer Eugene Richards. The culmination of a dozen years of reporting, both on and off assignment, these stories, each one different in style and tone, immerse us in the lives of Honduran coffee growers, members of a Kansas City street gang, drought-plagued villagers from Niger, and doctors in an embattled Bosnian hospital. They chronicle the birth of a first child, an explosion of family violence, the struggle of a farming family to hang on to its ancestral home, and the unearthing of a half-hidden grave said to hold the remains of a slave. Described as having an acute, sometimes hard-edged visual sensibility and a literary voice, Richards writes in order to come to terms with the complexities of what he is observing. At a time when photojournalists are often relegated to illustrating the ideas of others, he persists in interweaving his words and photographs to create boldly narrative stories that bear witness to the dramas of real lives and comment on the times in which we live. Deeply personal and prodigious in scope, The Fat Baby is a tribute to the emotional power of photography and a celebration of storytelling.
The original Dorchester Days is a classic self-published edition, chronicling life in Eugene Richards' home town of Dorchester, Massachusetts, in the 1970s. Although all the photographs are taken within a few streets of each other, the book represents a snapshot of small town America in the 1970s, and as such has a far more wide-reaching resonance. Racial tension, violence, poverty and crime: it is a powerful portrayal of a town and a nation in a state of transition and decline. In this new and revised edition Richards reorders and expands the book from the original edition, tackling subjects such as racism and the Ku Klux Klan head-on in a way that he did not feel able to pursue at the time of the original publication.