With the predominance of CNN and other 24-hour news sources, both televised and on the Web, we no longer rely on photojournalists to get a visual of the story whatever that story might be. Then again, the same could be said about news in general; and yet, readers still look to the static image, the printed word, for their news or at least some versions of it.
On view at Central Library, now through July 31, a selection of photographs by Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer Bill Foley offer a look at Foley’s less hard-edged work, instead focusing on “Street Work” scenes from Indiana and abroad.
For more than a quarter of a century, Foley has been documenting world events, particularly in the Middle East, and their aftermath: In the early ‘80s, he was awarded his Pulitzer for photographing the aftermath of a massacre of nearly 900 Palestinians in a refugee camp he knew well, having covered events there prior to the tragedy. While it’s difficult to feel anything but horror and sadness when looking at the photos — bodies piled like bedding on a street corner, a bicyclist gaping at the carnage — it’s also clear that Foley’s acclaim wasn’t earned for his subject matter. Rather, he captures the personal moment — a woman’s anger, a man’s grief, a child’s innocence.
In “Grand Central Station, NYC 8:05 a.m.,” Foley reveals his artist’s eye: Travelers are caught moving through the terminal, casting long shadows in the morning light streaming through a window, so that they appear as apparitions. This is an aesthetic moment rather than a news event, and Foley captures these as well as the news. Foley’s work has taken him to 47 countries, in service of newspapers, magazines and books and he has also crossed the line into the corporate arena, more or less maintaining a balance between subject and perspective.
Foley’s documentary photographs on view at the library are displayed in movable display cases in the cavernous atrium. On the plus side, you can’t miss them as you make your way through the lobby to the stacks — but on the other hand, the images are small, almost too intimate for such a setting. Regardless, even if this collection of photographs tends to the lighter side, it’s still worth a contemplative look.
Foley will discuss his latest work in the program “Behind the Lens” on Sunday, July 27, 2 p.m. at Central Library, in the Riley Meeting Room, 40 E. St. Clair St. View the photographs in the library’s atrium through July 31. Open daily. For hours, visit www.imcpl.org or call 317-275-4100.