Beauty - Humanity - Story-telling - Connection
The seeds for this project were planted years ago – when I was 10 years old walking down Market street, in San Francisco with my best friend and our art teacher Barbara Marino. That day Barbara taught me to seek beauty in the uniqueness of each person I passed – a profound way of looking at the world.
Each day I use curiosity as a guide to see humanity with a new lens. The sublime often hides in unexpected places.
Flash forward. I was at the Miami International Airport, stuck waiting for a plane, looking around, and I noticed what an incredibly diverse population was present there. I started to think about how each person has an origin and a destination that is like a thread that leads them from where they began to where they are going. At that moment what I was witnessing was the living tapestry of all of those threads coming together. I felt deeply inspired.
In the past, I’ve done portrait projects working with communities, where people are either living or working together. But in the case of the Miami International Airport, what intrigued me is that it is a sub-culture of impermanence. I started to think how amazing it would be if someone were to document, show each of these different people, each of these different stories, moving through this complex crossroads. In that moment I conceived this project.
So, first I approached the Miami Airport. They said they did not have funding to help, but they would be happy to give me practical support and that they would love to show the exhibition. Next, I found bi-lingual interviewer Mark Menjivar and Anthropologists Francisco Sastre and Allessandra Rosa to assist me at the airport with the interview process.
I worked on this project over the span of a full year, making six trips to Miami. Altogether, we photographed and interviewed over 200 people. Going behind security, hanging out with Cuban families at the Customs Exit and approaching complete strangers were all part of the process. The generosity of the participants was beautiful. No two interactions were alike, each person jumped onboard in their own unique way. The range of folks that we met and got to interact with was vast and ever changing.
An Invitation for a Different Perspective
One of the things I find interesting about being at an airport is that you’re in an in-between stage, between your origin and your destination. This exhibit is made to be presented and experienced in that space.
I’m offering a multi-faceted experience for the viewer. The portraits will not be displayed in a conventional setting or a conventional way. What I envision for the final exhibition is to have 40 of the portraits and interviews printed large-scale on transparent material. They will be hung in front of the terminal windows so that the viewer will actually be able to see through the suspended photographs.
The large images will have a ghostlike quality to them, suggesting the presence and essence of the people that came before on their journeys. Each portrait will have their corresponding interview displayed next to it, giving them identity. Rather than being nameless faces – each person will have a story. (pls. see a few of the stories in the ‘gallery’ area of this website. The text area is limited by Indiegogo so some of the stories have been cut off)
This exhibition also welcomes awareness of the viewers’ own presence within the dynamic cultural landscape. It welcomes curiosity – and it might get the viewer to look at the person next to them with new eyes. It welcomes belonging – to feel connected to humanity at large.
Your Help Makes All the Difference
Up until now this has been a labor of love. I have passionately devoted my time, energy and money to this project because I believe in the innate beauty of humanity and I want to share that vision. Your support will expand this project from a self-funded, self-promoted under-taking to a larger community effort. Teaming-up with you will give “Origins and Destinations” the wings it needs to reach the audience it is seeking, and make an impact.
The money raised during this campaign will go directly to produce the “Origins and Destinations” exhibition. This includes: printing 40 of the portraits large scale, applying them to plexiglas, installing them at the airport, transcribing, editing, translating and printing the corresponding interviews and getting the whole exhibit shipped from San Francisco, to Miami and back. Any money raised beyond my Indiegogo goal will go toward building an interactive website and beyond that, a book, so that this project can reach a larger global audience.
Any amount you can give will be greatly appreciated. : )
Thank you for taking the time to watch my video and support this “Origins and Destinations” campaign. If you can’t contribute monetarily, please help get the word out – tell a friend, pass it along through Facebook, Twitter etc. You can even use the tools right on this Indiegogo page to share.
Your support on all levels adds tremendously to the realization of this exhibition and the spirit of global community and connection it aims to achieve. Thank you ALL from the bottom of my heart.
- Portraits: 40 printed large-scale and applied to plexi @ $285 each = $11,400
- Hardware for Installation @ $22 each x 40 = $880
- All Interviews Transcribed $610
- Interviews translated into Spanish and English for exhibition $650
- Interviews printed for exhibition @ $16 each x 40 = $640
- Crating and shipping costs for exhibition @ $815 each way = $1630
- Indiegogo fees $1740
- Cost for Perks $950
It takes a community to bring an undertaking like this to life. “Origins and Destinations” has come this far thanks to the practical help, moral support and encouragement of: My Mom Arlene Wiltberger, Jeffrey Vroom, Cynthia and Jeff Gneiser, Hailey and Craig Dillon, LaCie Corporation, Six Seconds, Francisco Sastre, Florent at Dezign with a Z, Mark Menjivar, Yolanda Sanchez, Victoria Bogdan, Allessandra Rosa, Matthew Pendergast, Kip Baldwin, Jim Berger, Matthew Wakem, Slim, Kimowan Metchewais, Carolina Salazar, Jane Jones, Hugh and Mary Behm-Steinberg, Karen Stone McCown, Josh Freedman, Claire and Tom Mills, Sabrina Ferrand, Ed Yarbrough, Carlos Arrieta, Sofia Kanavle, Kenan, Jaymie and Solah Malik, Jessica James, David Ventura, Genevieve Walker, Michelle Charles, Sigal Gerber, Ann Jastrab, Mikkel Aaland, Roger Minick, Guru Khalsa, Ben Baum, and Jim Campbell. Thank you ALL.
The “Origins and Destinations” project and exhibition is dedicated to Barbara Marino, my beloved elementary school Art Teacher – I am forever grateful to her.
For Laena Wilder, photography not only opens dialogue, but it also creates a thought-provoking record. With an under-graduate degree in documentary photography and a Masters of Fine Arts Degree from the University of North Carolina, Wilder uses the camera as a tool for gathering cultural information and facilitating exchange within racially diverse communities.
Wilder’s photographic projects include several ‘kids with camera’s’ projects she created and executed that promote diversity and cultural understanding within communities from North Carolina to Durban, South Africa. Her efforts have earned her a prestigious Rockefeller Fellowship Grant and her visual research has taken her around the world.
Exhibitions of Wilder‘s photographs have been displayed internationally and domestically including: SECCA – the South Eastern Center for Contemporary Art, the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, the Kostroma Municipal Gallery in Russia, and Foto Gallerie in Hong Kong among others. Her work is in several private and corporate collections including San Francisco’s Modernism Gallery and the Gap Corporate Art Collection.
Laena cherishes her many years of experience as an educator. Her curricula have included several practical, conceptual, and historical photography courses taught at Duke University’s Center for Documentary Studies, the University of San Francisco, the Academy of Art University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
A few years back, Wilder teamed up with Anthropologist Mary Strong and the University of Texas Press to produce a very distinctive textbook: Viewpoints, Visual Anthropologists at Work. This book introduces future anthropologists, photographers, and documentarians to the practical, ethical, and cultural issues that arise while working with a camera in the field
Wilder’s projects have garnered generous financial and material support from the Polaroid Corporation, the Rockefeller Foundation, UCIS – the University Center for International Studies, the Epson Corporation, LaCie, Ritz Camera’s, Central Carolina Bank, The Konica Corporation and Community 2000, a division of the Civil Rights Organization.
To contribute, go here.