Photo by Jacob Drabik

The Lens

The Lens is the FotoFocus editorial platform, highlighting our programming and featuring in-depth conversations on photography and the moving image drawn from perspectives and insights in our community, throughout our region, and around the globe.

Willy Castellanos: Exodus. Alternate Documents, 1994–2024

Posted on April 22, 2024

Willy Castellanos’ post-documentary practice emerged from the photographic record he made in Havana, Cuba, during the 1994 Rafter Crisis. Despite the scarcity of 35mm film in the years following the fall of the Berlin Wall, Castellanos photographed complete sequences of events that included the construction of the rafts, farewell rituals, and scenes of crowds launching into the sea. Between August and September 1994, over 35,000 Cubans embarked toward the United States on hand-built rafts in what became one of the most dramatic exoduses in contemporary history.

A decade ago, the exhibition Exodus: Alternate... Continue reading Willy Castellanos: Exodus. Alternate Documents, 1994–2024

Juan-Si González: Looking for Cuba Inside

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Years ago, Cuban-born artist Juan-Si González traveled through Missouri and stumbled on a sign: “Burger King, Cuba, 3 Miles.” The ironic juxtaposition led him to investigate. He later found 16 small towns called Cuba in the United States, most founded around the time of the Spanish-American War. Born out of that surprising discovery, Looking for Cuba Inside is a multimedia installation that moves like a travel diary along the walls of the gallery. It is a montage of documentary images and an absurd chronicle, oscillating constantly between memory, reality, reportage, and fiction.

The... Continue reading Juan-Si González: Looking for Cuba Inside

Afterwords: 50 Years in Words and Images by Arno Rafael Minkkinen

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Finnish-American photographer Arno Rafael Minkkinen presents Afterwords, an exhibition of photographs with accompanying texts about their making. Over five decades ago, Minkkinen embarked on a personal quest to perfect a single concept: unmanipulated, nude self-portraits in communion and counterpoint with nature and urban settings. Minkkinen makes environmental portraits; however, his subject matter is always himself in dialogue with the environment. Curator: William Messer, Independent Curator Continue reading Afterwords: 50 Years in Words and Images by Arno Rafael Minkkinen

Tina Gutierrez: Illumination

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In these underwater photographs by Tina Gutierrez, the beauty in the movement of dancers and their ability to adapt to an underwater environment can be directly attributed to their rigorous training and ballet culture. Unknown to most, dancers’ careers often end before they reach the age of 30. Authoritarian power structures, intensely competitive training and performing environments, and hypercritical, perfectionist attitudes contribute to the pressures dancers endure. While initially this can appear to facilitate success, it ultimately compromises the health of performers. 

Ballet is a ‘culture of risk’ that normalizes pain and injury, and... Continue reading Tina Gutierrez: Illumination

Casey LeClair: Nightlife In Renderville

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“Nightlife in Renderville” is a single chapter of the forthcoming book, Renderville, A Guide, about a town that doesn’t actually exist. The exhibition is a collection of urban street photography, captured between dusk and dawn, and an exercise in worldbuilding after a traumatic brain injury. The project documents the rendering process of physical reconstruction and the challenges of relearning old skills, particularly the use of a digital camera. 

While street photography is inherently tied to improvisation, as in capturing luck through a lens, night photography is a unique challenge since available light changes constantly while navigating city streets. The... Continue reading Casey LeClair: Nightlife In Renderville