Recreating Home: Photographs of the Refugee Experience

From the Sept/Oct 2019 PNL #868

by Carl Mellor

“Recreating Home: Photographs of the Refugee Experience,” Maranie R. Staab’s solo exhibit at the ArtRage Gallery, fo-cuses mostly on refugees living on the North Side of Syracuse. It’s home to fam-ilies who have fled war, dire poverty, en-vironmental disasters and ethnic conflict. They’ve emigrated to the United States from around the globe—from Africa, the Middle East and other regions. Staab’s black-and-white images docu-ment everyday experiences such as work-ing at a Popeye’s Chicken restaurant or studying for a GED test. The photos also provide a sense of the neighborhood where most of the refugees live; there are images of children at a playground and teenagers hanging out near Star Market, a convenience store. Beyond that, Staab has created intimate photos of people at home. In one shot, a mother and daughter string dried flowers. In another, a group of women share con-versation and a meal. A third image shows a mother making dinner. And Staab’s lens captures moments of joy: two girls em-bracing; a teenager clapping enthusiasti-cally. Finally, the 30-image show displays other incisive photos. For example, a young child looks at an iPad screen while eating Nepalese rice. A teenager prays. Two children stand near a doorway in a shot suggesting entry into a new realm.“Recreating Home” not only stands on its own but continues the documen-tary work Staab has done for the past five years. She photographed the Zaatari refugee camp on the border between Syria and Jordan and completed “Forced from Home,” a series discussing people who were driven from their homes in Mosul, Iraq. She continues to work on “Spoons and Country,” a project dealing with the opioid epidemic in Pittsburgh, PA. As she does her work abroad and do-mestically, Staab concentrates on human rights and social justice issues, looking at people impacted by violence, displace-ment and life on the margins of society. “Recreating Home” offers yet another project demonstrating her commitment to in-depth work. In order to create the intimate photos currently on display at ArtRage, she had to engage with her sub-jects and gain their trust. Staab will deliver an artist’s talk at 7:00 p.m. on Wednesday, October 2, at ArtRage Gallery, 505 Hawley Ave in Syracuse. That event is free and open to the public. Her one-woman exhibition