There are exhibitions in the US commemorating the passing of the Civil Rights Bill of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 such as the photographic exhibition of the work of civil rights photographer Bob Adelman. In London, an exhibition at the Photographers’ Gallery presents a broader perspective showing more than 300 black and white photographs from all corners of the world in the exhibition “Human Rights Human Wrongs” that draws from the archive of the Black Star agency founded in 1935 in New York by three German Jews who had fled Nazi persecution.
The 1948 Universal of Declaration of Human Rights arose out of the Second World War; this exhibition records violent political change, conflict, war, suffering and abuse of those rights from 1945 until the early 1990’s as photographers recorded and raise awareness of these struggles. The black and white photography gives a timeless feel and it by reading the captions that the viewer understands how far back or, sadly, how recent the photographs are.
The aim of the exhibition is to explore the role of photography in raising awareness to ordinary people and to politicians of atrocities, conflicts and struggles taking place in the world and to provide a historical record, so that we do not forget. It also highlights the quality and beauty of black and white photography, the courage of the photographers in working in difficult and dangerous situations and the strength and persistence of men, women and children as they deal with unacceptable situations.
The exhibition includes a broad range of images including the Civil Rights Movement in the US, independence movements in Africa, Middle Eastern and South American uprisings, the Vietnam War and political and social upheavals in Europe.
Exhibition curator Mark Sealy states: The guiding principle for the exhibition is Article Six from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which proposes: Everybody has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law. I wanted audiences to really think about what this human right to recognition actually means, and how such recognition is generated and controlled, especially in terms of image production and circulation. So much of the world, in terms of how we understand it, is generated from a very particular tradition of Eurocentric concerns and the ongoing relevance of Article Six must be that we consider other people’s points of view. At a time when vast swathes of people – the refugee, the asylum seeker, the economic migrant – have no rights at all, are in fact ‘no-ones’, it seems a matter of extreme urgency to consider political humanitarian development in today’s context.”
Sue Steward in The Evening Standard sums up the exhibition: “This exhibition is remarkable: intense, informative, historically significant and often harrowing…… The exhibition’s closing call compliments these extraordinary photographs: “Everyone has the right to recognition, everywhere, as a person before the law.””
Perhaps one of the most telling photographs is from 1955 – a simple photograph by Swiss Photographer Dr Georg Gerster of Gaza Airfield with the dancer Zena Reeves writing a goodbye letter after a 10 day stay. 60 years later, Gaza is still unresolved.