Louisa Marie Summer is a photographer with a strong awareness of socio-political issues, and we happen to love her style. Shooting mainly portraiture and social documentary, she captures people in motion in a rare and fine way that makes you think she must have been a ghost in the room. As you can see from her work it is important for her to be as close as possible to her subjects, yet she captures the essence of human behavior in a surprising voyeuristic fashion that only a true artist could achieve. Originally from Germany and now living in New York City, her work has been exhibited internationally, including the U.S., Europe and South Korea. She has won numerous awards, and was nominated (not surprisingly) this year for the Prix Pictet 2010.
Here is what she had to say about one of her recent projects, Jennifer’s Family:
Upon arriving from Germany to live and work in the United States almost two years ago, I was shocked to find the America of my imagination—a place where everyone is well-educated and privileged—to be instead a place with a great deal of poverty and despair. Building on my long-term interest in social documentary photography, I set out to find subjects that allowed me to reflect on these issues.
The series “Jennifer’s Family” focuses on Jennifer, a second-generation Puerto Rican woman, her Native American life partner David, and their four children, who live in South Providence, Rhode Island.
South Providence is an urban neighborhood with a large African-American and Hispanic population. Many families here live well below the poverty line. Unemployment is rampant and foreclosure rates are among the highest in the United States.
My photographs and video, captured over more than a year, represent intimate moments in the everyday lives of Jennifer and her family. They illustrate how a twenty-five-year-old mother, in spite of difficult living conditions, poverty, desolation, and illness, manages to maintain an optimistic disposition while thoroughly caring for her children. Though on the margins of capitalist prosperity, she lives in pursuit of her American Dream, hosting birthday parties and maintaining hope that one day she will own a home and achieve a better, richer, and happier life.
With my personal photographs I intend that viewers will become engaged in what they see, questioning their stereotypes about poverty and disadvantaged families. As viewers discover the human side in Jennifer and her family, my hope is that they will finally internalize that investing in the poor is good for society as a whole, not just for the poor.