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The Most Important Thing / Brian Sokol

September 2015

Exhibit opening, screening, & talk
Wednesday Sept 16, 2015, 7:30 PM
Moderated by Anna Van Lenten, Half King Photo Series curator

Begun in 2012, Brian Sokol’s ongoing narrative portrait series establishes a direct connection with the emotional and practical lives of women, men, and children who have fled conflicts in nearly a dozen countries. Each person tells the events of their escape and presents what is most meaningful to them in their dislocated state. Brian set up the series so that across the standardized backdrop of a black curtain, each person’s individuality is eminent. This way, no one is being “swallowed by the visual details of their camp.”


The Most Important Thing emphasizes things—a fishing net, a mattress, a cooking pot—but also, the information in people’s faces fascinates because their attention is so concentrated. Howard, holding the long knife, looks guarded, hot. Dowla, bearing the pole across her shoulders, comes across assured, relaxed, with a hint of a smile in her eyes. Ahmed, gripping the cane, is fierce. To the viewer, they are revealed as the complicated characters they truly are, folks who must navigate the turns their lives have taken. Yet equally, Brian's project is an entry point to the current refugee crisis, whose vast scale and dizzying force render individuals as featureless victims in mass flight. The poise and assertiveness Brian’s pictures capture, and his subjects' stories, counters this perception; we are compelled to linger on choices and contingencies that, with a flip of history, could be ours.

~ Anna Van Lenten


BRIAN SOKOL is currently based in Kathmandu. He is an independent photographer dedicated to documenting human rights issues and humanitarian crises in conflict-affected societies. He has had solo and group exhibitions in North and South America, Europe, Asia and Africa. He is represented by Panos Pictures, and is Sony's Global Imaging Ambassador.

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