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English Language Institute

Montserrat Saavedra is a 17-year-old student from Cali, Colombia. She decided to attend ELI for one semester before starting her major in International Relations back in her country. Besides learning a second language, photography is one of her passions.

Two Photographers Along the Silk Road
“Along the Silk Roads” is an exhibition open to the public from October 15th until December 15th. It is housed in the Godwin-Ternbach Museum at Queens College and presents the work of two photographers, Lynn Gilbert and Didier Vanderperre. These photographs combine ancient and modern times, two realities that go hand in hand particularly in places like Uzbekistan, Turkey, and Xinjiang, which these images are of.
Gilbert’s work is magnificent. She did not need to worry about such technical aspects of photography as shutter speed, aperture, or the balance of light and dark; she just needed the appropriate composition in her photographs. Gilbert’s pictures describe people’s traditional way of life down to and through little details. Her intimate images of domestic interiors, full of color and textures, give the public a glimpse of how people in Turkey and Uzbekistan live. These insights portray what a traditional home looks like, from the carved wooden ceilings and the walls ornamented with patterned drapes to the rugs covering the floors with all types of different textures. The photographer takes all these elements from the room and places them next to contemporary details to create a contrast of ancient settings as background for life today. That is how she conveys effectively the ambiance of a room through her pictures.
On the other hand, Didier Vanderperre focuses on street photography. His pictures portray men, women, and children from Xingjian in their daily lives. Once again, his work is not about technical details; it is about capturing people’s emotions through simple images that incorporate elements from their usual activities. Merchants working in bazaars are Vanderperre’s protagonists in his work because Xinjiang is regarded as the heart of the Silk Roads. Didier Vanderperre aims to show his audience how three thousand years of history are still preserved. Independently from the commercialism of the modern world, tradition reigns.
In my opinion, this exhibition combines two opposite views perfectly. While Gilbert shows how people live in the tranquility of their homes, Vanderperre presents people’s daily lives outside their homes. The works of both photographers cover completely the new reality along the Silk Roads, born from the mixture of ancient and modern eras. When I saw the photographs in the exhibition, the first thought that came to my mind was how well were captured the people’s emotions in Vanderperre’s work and the ambiance of the rooms in Gilbert’s photographs. They did not need special gear or settings on their cameras; they just transmitted the richness of a history through pictures. This is the main reason why I admire their work.
The exhibition is worth visiting because it reflects the importance of the Silk Roads in the region’s history and the effect of this “cultural bridge” between Asia and Europe in the way people live. This artwork is a perfect example of how tradition meets modernity today as cultures and their customs are preserved. In my personal experience, visiting the exhibition was an amazing opportunity to learn about the Eastern lifestyle just by seeing a few photographs.

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Donna Y. Smith

Executive Director
English Language Institute

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