Exhibition explores the ‘other side’

Award-winning photographer Barry Salzman.

The grass may seem like it’s greener on the other side, but that is not always the case.

Award-winning photographer Barry Salzman hopes the public take that thought away from his The Other Side of Christmas exhibition at the Deepest Darkest Gallery in the Waterkant.

Salzman says it was a pivotal moment for him as a photographer when he realised the camera could be a tool to explore complex issues.

He used to ride his bicycle from his home in Claremont to Crossroads and use the camera to explore what was going on.

“In a strange way, the camera gave me permission to go some place that I wouldn’t otherwise go, and it gave me a reason to explore.”

It’s no coincidence, he says, that the very first body of work he remembers doing dealt with apartheid, and a more recent one dealt with the Rwandan genocide.

The photographer scooped the 2018 International Photographer of the Year award in the Deeper Perspective category at the International Photography Awards (IPA), for his project, The Day I Became Another Genocide Victim.

He uses his camera, he says, as a way to grapple with complex issues.

Though he lives now in a flat on Clifton Beach, he says he struggles to take a pretty picture.

“With photography, for me, there’s a moral and ethical duty to say something with the workers and artists as opposed to an art practice that is purely about aesthetics.”

So he finds himself, he says, focusing on socio-economic issues and issues affecting community, heritage and identity.

He started working on The Other Side of Christmas in 2014 after finishing his Master’s degree in photography in New York.

“I took a road trip across the southern parts of the US, just to try and understand what my role was and just to see what America meant outside of the big cities.”

It was during the 2014 mid-term elections in America, and he didn’t think much of it at the time, he says, until 2016 when Donald Trump won the presidential election.

When that happened, he went back and pulled out all the pictures from two years earlier — suddenly they held much more meaning for him.

“I started feeling like what I was seeing and what was motivating me to take these pictures was the beginning of this sense of deep dissatisfaction on the part of a lot of Americans.”

He says he wants to show the body or work to locals so they can think a little harder about what they have around them in Cape Town and South Africa.

“My experience often times with people in South Africa has always been, the grass is greener on the other side. It’s always been everywhere is better than where we are,” he says.

It’s a refrain, says Salzman, that he heard when he returned to live in South Africa. Many South African’s kept asking him why he had left America for South Africa.

“This work is an important reminder to people, wherever they see it, that the grass is not always greener on the other side, and we must think twice before buying into that idiom that the grass is always greener on the side because, more often than not, it’s not.”

The Other Side of Christmas is on at the Deepest Darkest Gallery until Saturday December 28.

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