LANCASTER - Halifax photographer Catherine Wert’s study of immigrant women will be showcased Sept. 2-30 as the next in a series of community exhibits at the Lancaster Campus of HACC, Central Pennsylvania’s Community College.
The exhibit, "Portraits of Immigrant Women from the ‘Our Voices’ Project," features photographs taken by Wert of members of the Pennsylvania Immigrant and Refugee Women’s Network (PAIRWN) who shared their journeys from their native countries to central Pennsylvania.
It will be on display in Room 203 of the East Building on the campus, 1602 Old Philadelphia Pike. A reception for the artist will be held from noon-2 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 24. Both are free and open to the public.
"HACC Lancaster's Creative Community committee provides a gathering space to show art produced by local art educators; artists who teach art at local colleges, in addition to being professional artists," said Judith Johnson, campus humanities instructor and CITE coordinator.
"We wish to provide a space wherein faculty, staff, students and the local community come together in a learning environment. Community outreach is an essential element in our program for furthering an understanding of the process of making art," Johnson added.
For Wert, an experienced photographer for more than 30 years, her own journey was filled with fascination from shooting to developing, commercial, portrait and editorial photography. Influenced by fine art photography exhibits at museums and galleries, historic and contemporary works, she shifted from commercial work to fine art and in turn began a career in teaching, that includes HACC and Wilson College.
Her works have been exhibited at numerous facilities, schools, museums and galleries in central Pennsylvania and New York.
The "Our Voices" Project opened at The State Museum of Pennsylvania in 2005 as an exhibit based on narratives about the traditions and lives of refugee and immigrant women who moved to Pennsylvania. Along with Wert’s work, the exhibit featured stories, artifacts and art created specifically for the project. The exhibit was organized and sponsored by The Institute for Cultural Partnerships (ICP), Harrisburg and by the Pennsylvania Immigrant and Refugee Women’s Network.
"For me the most challenging kind of photograph to do is a portrait of another person," said Wert. This is where the art of listening and patience enters the picture. "I love looking at photographs," she said, "but sometimes fine art photographers try too hard. Too many are looking for the ‘decisive moment’ or copying Ansel (Adams) or other great photographers from the past. The key is to do what you think is interesting, photograph your own unique world and not worry about making art."
Wert said, "When photography was invented over 175 years ago and people saw for the first time a fixed image of themselves they were awe-struck. Photography was thought by many as something magical and some even refused to allow a picture of them to be taken for fear it would steal their soul.
"Now, of course, photographs are commonplace. There is no sense of awe or wonder anymore. But I have to tell you, that being in the darkroom and making photographs is still amazing to me and my hope is that you will see in these photographs a little of the soul and spirit of these beautiful women."
To the women featured in Wert’s photography, she said, "I will never forget meeting each of you and the time we spent getting to know each other. You made me a wonderful cup of hot tea and you gave me a small cup of dark strong coffee with a piece of cake. You offered me sweet homemade lemonade. You made me crispy egg rolls and delicate blintzes with sour cream and the most wonderful Indian food.
"Sometimes we sat quietly chatting at your kitchen table and sometimes not so quietly while your children busily inspected my camera," Wert continued.
"We took walks down the street and in your backyard. You showed me your garden and gave me a plant you had grown from seed. We went for a long lunch and sometimes met only briefly during your busy day."
Exhibit hours are noon-3 p.m. Monday-Friday and 5-7 p.m. Thursdays. For more information, call the HACC-Lancaster Campus at 293-5000.