Oaxaca: Maya Joseph-Goteiner and Michael Courvoisier

SILVERMAN and Majestic Condo Association present
Oaxaca: Maya Joseph-Goteiner and Michael Courvoisier
Opening Reception: Tuesday, July 12, 2011, 6 to 8 p.m.

The Majestic Theatre Condominiums
222 Montgomery Street
Jersey City, NJ 07302
201-435-8000
SilvermanBuilding.com

Exhibition on view in the lobby July 12, 2011, to October 31, 2011.

SILVERMAN and Majestic Condo Association present a two-person exhibition of Maya Joseph-Goteiner and Michael Courvoisier’s photographs of everyday life in Oaxaca, Mexico.

Courvoisier made his first trip to Oaxaca in early 2008, and has made several trips back to this southwestern region of Mexico. Joseph-Goteiner joined him on two of his return visits in the fall of 2008 and 2010. Oaxaca, known for its vibrant street culture, is the ideal place for this pair of photographers, whose primary subject is the street.

Joseph-Goteiner and Courvoisier take spontaneous and candid shots of street scenes, public festivals, open markets, roadside nonattractions, and vacant lots, to name just a few places. All members of the community populate their photographs: young and old, women and men, girls and boys. As photographers, Joseph-Goteiner and Courvoisier seek the decisive moment, an instant in real time when people materialize before the camera in unexpected and revealing ways.

Together, Joseph-Goteiner and Courvoisier show a side of Mexico that is at odds with popular culture and corporate news media. The Mexico they present is tranquil, reflective, warm, open, and joyous—and has nothing to do with crime, violence, kidnapping, political corruption, and grinding poverty.

What distinguishes Joseph-Goteiner’s work is her keen eye for depicting people—usually children and teenagers—in quiet moments of reflection in public.

In 2010, amidst the dancing, drinking, and celebratory atmosphere of the Day of the Dead, Joseph-Goteiner photographed an 11-year-old girl in a witch costume sitting on a freshly covered grave no more than four feet in the length. As a child, Joseph-Goteiner also paid her respects to the dearly departed in front of gravestones and gravesites.

“In an effort to trace our pre-Holocaust family history, my maternal grandparents—both survivors—have spent a significant amount of time locating graves in France and Germany, “ says Joseph-Goteiner. “As a child, I spent my summers in France with my grandparents often solving puzzles about our family and uncovering forgotten gravestones in overgrown graveyards.”

Joseph-Goteiner often seeks a direct connection to her subjects. She makes her presence known, hanging around cafés, arcades, and shops. She does not shoot willy-nilly. Patience is key. She admits to waiting several hours for the decisive moment. Typically, she determines whether someone is comfortable having his or her photograph taken or not before snapping a picture. If she has any doubts, she makes eye contact with them, and asks permission. Sometimes she is rejected; most times she is not.

“We spent a good five hours in this small town—Arrazola—on this evening. We returned a few more times. On this night we spent an hour or two by the arcade,” she says. “While a few other girls were on Facebook in the computer room, this girl was playing video games. I identified with her. She was very aware of me, we did not speak, but she was as curious as I was. The photograph was definitely deliberate. I waited . . . and waited.”

What distinguishes Courvoisier’s candid shots of ordinarily people going about their lives is his reverence for the land, culture, and people of Oaxaca.

“I had the opportunity to work in Mexico for a few months in the fall of 2004.  During this trip I really fell in love with the way life unfolds on the streets,” says Michael Courvoisier. “I have subsequently made many trips back to Mexico. Oaxaca remains one of my favorite places to visit. . . . I fell in love with the way of life the people and their way of expressing themselves that is so completely out in the open, with colorful festivals during all times of the year.”

Before Courvoisier begins taking pictures of his subjects, he tries as best he can to get a sense of the community and the place. He rides the buses. He walks through the city streets. He hangs with the locals—talking, drinking, and eating. He always has his camera out, in front of him, letting his intentions be known. Rather than planning his shots, he relies on serendipity.

“I tend to do a lot of waiting around for the light to become just right or the right mix of people to walk through my frame,” says Courvoisier. “Being open to letting things unfold in front of me without any expectation is very important.”

~ Brendan Carroll, Curator

Maya Joseph-Goteiner is a Brooklyn-based artist and curator. Her recent work features candid photographs of street scenes taken in Peru, Tunisia, and Mexico. She currently organizes 365 Days of Print, a blog that invites 10 new artists every month to create work daily in response to the newspaper. She also cofounded Ketuv, a commercial project that asks artists to design custom made ketubahs. She graduated with a BFA in photography from NYU’s Tisch School. She was born and raised in San Francisco, CA.

Michael Courvoisier is a Brooklyn-based photographer. The primary focus of his work is documenting the street life of rural and urban citizens in Mexico and New York City. He studied photography at Santa Fe Photographic Workshop. He is an established Master Printer, working with many of today’s leading photographers. Courvoisier was born in southern Illinois.

The exhibition will be on view at The Majestic Theatre Condominiums through October 31, 2011. For further information, please visit us at SilvermanBuilding.com or contact Liz Dempsey, Executive Assistant, at 201-435-8000 or via e-mail at liz@silvermanbuilding.com.

Oaxaca: Maya Joseph-Goteiner and Michael Courvoisier is the third exhibition that Brendan Carroll will organize for SILVERMAN.

SILVERMAN has presented the works of Laurie Riccadonna, Tim Daly, Ann Flaherty, Scott Taylor, Jason Seder, Sara Wolfe, Beth Gilfilen, Andrzej Lech, Hiroshi Kumagai, Tom McGlynn, Victoria Calabro, Asha Ganpat, Darren Jones, Ryan Roa, Laura Napier, Risa Puno, Nyugen E. Smith, Amanda Thackray, and Kai Vierstra.

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1 comment
  1. Really dig the work in this show. Now not only do I want to go to Oaxaca, I know how to pronounce it!

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