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The Art of Truth: "I Witness" Puts Photojournalism on Display

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For Wynwood's gray-haired arts doyenne, Bernice Steinbaum, her current exhibit "I Witness" has been one of the most personal and rewarding shows of her long career as a gallerist. But then again, she has always been a risk-taking maverick as a dealer.

"I have always been very curious about why photo documentarians/artists are never or rarely seen in a fine arts gallery, even though their works are collected by museums," she says.

Steinbaum, who co-curated "I Witness" with Miami Herald lensman Carl Juste, is showcasing the works of 25 international photojournalists whose arresting pictures explore global conflict, religious intolerance, the after-effects of natural calamities and soul-withering poverty from disparate perspectives. Their powerful images engage the viewer beyond the role of casual observer, forcing one to ponder human suffering on a global scale.

"What you notice immediately about these images, and what lingers on the consciousness long afterwards, is that all of these subjects share the same facial expressions," says Steinbaum.

"Whether the photos depict someone in Miami, Cuba, Haiti, Colombia, Iraq, Los Angeles or Darfur, we can recognize the look of pure horror and pain," observes Steinbaum.

The dealer says there are two reasons the art world typically eschews the type of work she has given pride of place to in her sprawling Wynwood space.

"For one it is because these images first appear in newsprint and are quickly discarded after readers are done with the paper; plus, some folks in the art world do not consider photojournalists artists in the first place," says Steinbaum.

"But in my view the more obvious reason is that most people don't want to be confronted with the truth. These artists risk life, limb, and separation from their families while seeking to portray the reality of the world we live in," Steinbaum explains. "Some would rather just not be exposed to the truth, as if by negating the truth it doesn't exist."

"What people can expect to encounter in this exhibit is pain, the ravages of war, death, indigence, the lack of water, famine, suffering brought on by natural disaster, divisiveness caused by faith and universal issues we should all care about," Steinbaum says.

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"The works in the exhibit are both haunting and beautiful and presented in large format prints. You'll find everything from landscape to portraiture and more. The work is honest and deeply speaks to our humanity," she adds.

"I Witness" through April 4th at the Bernice Steinbaum Gallery, 3550 N. Miami, Avenune, Miami. Call 305-573-2700 or visit bernicesteinbaumgallery.com.

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