Last night I had the pleasure, along with about 300 other people, of viewing a (very) small part of Paul Fusco's work at a presentation done by Paul in Canmore, Alberta, as part of a gallery opening tonite at the Whyte Museum of the Rockies in Banff.
Before Paul began his presentation, a tribute to Robert Cappa was shown - I had only seen a very small number of Cappa's images before, and it was interesting to many more of his war images, including the last image he ever made before stepping on a land mine. His work was very powerful.
When Paul was introduced, it almost sounded as if he was overwhelmed by having to follow a presentation of Cappa's work - he even said that it was an incredibly hard act to follow. While Paul's work is very different than Cappa's, I would have to say that it was even more powerful than Cappa's.
From photographs of Bobby Kennedy's funeral train, gay activists in New York, Zapatista's in Mexico, Police protestors in New York, to the horrifying photographs of Chernobyl victims, his work is so incredibly powerful that it forced some people to tears in the auditorium. Very, very powerful stuff.
I will also say that I spent a good hour looking at his photographs of Chernobyl (link below), and I will admit that the 109 photographs that make up the book were perhaps some of the most difficult photographs to look at. If there were ever photographs taken of raw emotion, these are it.
There was a brief Q&A session after the presentation, and the last question asked was this: are you more or less emotionally involved with your subjects now then when you started photography? Without hesitation, Paul said 'More'. In talking with Paul after the presentation, you could see how deeply what he photographs affects him - there is almost agony in his eyes when he talks about the Chernobyl victims; that agony is apparent in his photographs.
As I was saying good night to him, I told him that I did not enjoy looking at many of his photographs, but every single one moved me. He smiled, and thanked me. I think I just gave him the best compliment I could.
I would like to point out that he just doesn't shoot doom-and-gloom photographs. Some of his photographs are genuinely humorous, but those are certainly the exception rather than the rule.
For those of you who are interested in this sort of photography, I suggest you check out some of Paul's work here:
Also, for those in the Banff-Canmore-Calgary area, the next show for the Whyte Museum opens tonite. Information on the Whyte can be found at www.whyte.org.