It was a typical midwinter spring day in Minneapolis, the real-life snow globe on the Mississippi, and I was in the middle of preparing for my Upstream show at Intermedia Arts ( which I possibly might have mentioned here, here, here, and here), when I got a semi-mysterious email from a fellow photographer named Ryan Herz. He complimented me on my Upstream images and sent me a link to a series of portraits that he shot at a mental institution in the mid seventies. The email was short, to the point and all caps.
The images were quite a revelation. They reminded me of images that made me want to become a photographer in the first place. I wrote him back and asked if I he could tell me more about himself and the images and here is what he wrote:
I ATTENDED ART CENTER AND THE SAN FRANCISCO ART INSTITUTE. I HAVE HAD EXHIBITS BOTH LOCALLY AND IN SAN FRANCISCO, NEW ORLEANS AND NEW YORK. I WAS PART OF THE “OCEAN VIEW”
EXHIBITION WHICH WAS CURATED BY KEVIN JON BOYLE AND SHOWN AT THE CALIFORNIA MUSEUM OF PHOTOGRAHY,
THE LAGUNA ART MUSEUM, AND THE WESTERN HERITAGE MUSEUM. IN ADDITION TO MY GENERAL WORK, I HAVE COMPLETED THE ESSAYS “ROUTE 5”, “WOMEN ON DISPLAY”, “EDGEWOOD” AND
“DESERT CHRIST PARK”. I AM CURRENTLY WORKING ON RELIGIOUS ICONOGRAPHY IN YUCCA VALLEY, CALIFORNIA. FOR ME IT’S ALWAYS BEEN ABOUT BEING OPEN TO WHEN MOMENTS OF LIGHT AND SHADOW CAN TRANSCEND.
THE CHILDREN AT EDGEWOOD
In late summer through early fall of 1976, I had the privilege of being allowed to photograph at
Edgewood. The State was requiring I.D. photos for all the residents. The local school photographers would not take the job, I volunteered. Edgewood’s staff did wonderful work. The residents were very well cared for. There was love and happiness in unexpected supply.
The title and much of the inspiration for this work came from discussions with those who take care of these people, both before, during and since the photographs were taken. They are children, no matter what their age might be, their feelings right on the surface without façade.
The portraits were completed in three or four sessions. I had just a few minutes with each person.
This both forced me and freed me to be instinctual rather than manipulative. Always an improvement.
That, coupled with the intense humanity and the unfiltered emotions of the developmentally disabled,
gives the photographs their power.
I’m not sure if Ryan Herz has a website but you can see more of his Edgewood series here.
Update: The book “Children of Edgewood” is available on Blurb.