Alissa Everett: Covering Beauty

Girl with the Red Veil Beira, Mozambique, 2019 Alissa Everett Photographic print on Hahnemuhle

Alissa Everett: Covering Beauty
Venice Biennale
23 April – 27 November 2022
European Cultural Centre, Venice

Photographer Alissa Everett unveils her solo exhibition COVERING BEAUTY; part of the sixth edition of Personal Structures at the European Cultural Centre (“ECC”). The exhibition will take place during the 59th Venice Biennale. Personal Structures is a biennial contemporary art platform founded in 2003 by artist Rene Rietmeyer as part of the ECC, an organization that aims to create spaces for artists, curators, and historians to develop and discuss work dealing with complex philosophical concepts.

Yazidi Wedding Celebrations Mosul, Iraq, 2003 Alissa Everett  Photographic print on Hahnemuhle Premium Luster paper 260gsm 90 by 60cm Edition: 1/4
Yazidi Wedding Celebrations Mosul, Iraq, 2003 Alissa Everett
Photographic print on Hahnemuhle Premium Luster paper 260gsm
90 by 60cm Edition: 1/4

Alongside Everett, significant artists also exhibiting work as part of Personal Structures include Martin Parr, Donald Martiny, Calvin Chih-Hao Teng, Daniel Pesta and Sandra Cattaneo Adorno. This year’s exhibition will focus on the theme of reflection, both the meditative and mirrored definition of the term.

Girl with the Red Veil Beira, Mozambique, 2019 Alissa Everett Photographic print on Hahnemuhle
Girl with the Red Veil Beira, Mozambique, 2019
Alissa Everett Photographic print on Hahnemuhle
Premium Luster paper 260gsm 90 by 60 cm Edition: 1/4

For the past twenty years, Everett has been capturing the human spirit and poignant moments in the face of conflict. Based in Nairobi, she creates intimate portraits in some of the world’s most challenging locations, ranging from Afghanistan, Gaza, Iraq, DR Congo to Darfur. Her access has created startling and sensitive imagery, often at odds with the wider political and reported situation of the time.

Everett began as a photographer in conflict zones and was on the ground during major events in the Iraq conflict – she was the only photographer allowed to take pictures at the capture of Saddam Hussein’s infamous sons on the outskirts of Mosul and was in Baghdad documenting the local reaction when Hussein himself was found. Despite this, her work has never been about the oft-sensationalized aspects of war, and she has actively shied away from the role of conflict documentarian to follow the human consequences of large-scale crises.

Everett has lived, worked, and travelled to over 130 countries in her quest to represent the human story, following the results of forced migration, sexual violence and environmental consequences of conflict. In contrast to media reportage and photojournalism capturing brutality and fighting, Everett’s work takes on an almost painterly feel as she captures intimate moments of life through the lens.

Big Mama Dee Dee Activist for girl’s rights in Liberia, 2017 Alissa Everett Photographic print on Hahnemuhle Premium
Big Mama Dee Dee Activist for girl’s rights in Liberia, 2017 Alissa Everett
Photographic print on Hahnemuhle Premium Luster paper 260gsm
30 by 20 cm Edition: 1/9

Everett said: “Many photographers are doing the incredibly important work of documenting the negative side of humankind. Not enough coverage is given to the other sides. while working in conflict zones, I realized that photography had an opinion. For every shocking image published of death or destruction, there were many that could be made of beauty hidden in the situation.

Some of my strongest impressions in challenging locations were times when families opened their doors to me. In Iraq, during the height of the invasion, an Iraqi family found out it was my birthday. They baked me a cake, and every member of the family bought me small gifts, despite having virtually nothing. I feel compelled to photograph the beauty I find in the world, our common humanity, and the resilient dignity of people in extraordinary circumstances.”

COVERING BEAUTY seeks to enhance our understanding of places usually defined by their conflict, to really see the people within. Uncharacterized by dominant news narratives, the subjects stand simply as themselves, driven by their own sense of agency. From the poignant and defiantly smiling gaze of the woman in Patience (1 and 2) set against newsprint that proclaims Afghanistan to be the ‘enemy’, to the hope of Yazidi Wedding Celebrations, the works present the human story in all its beauty.

As a woman traveling alone, often in precarious circumstances, Everett has been invited into situations of intense human intimacy, vulnerability, and unexpected joy. Over the last 50 years, most photographs published from conflict zones have been taken by male photographers. Alissa courageously chooses to capture images with no pre-conceived notions or rules of what to photograph, without the limitations and constraints of official newswires and media outlets, and their tendency to take images to reinforce pre-existing narratives. In COVERING BEAUTY, the works are paired with contemporaneous quotes demonstrating the dominant stories of despair and horror that have historically sold newspapers. COVERING BEAUTY invites the observer into the houses and tents of locals, into their ceremonies and rituals, around the table or on the floor, to enjoy all that connects and educates – the humanity of the local people – sharing both their dignity and challenges.

The exhibition features images from Algeria, Afghanistan, Chad, Darfur, DR Congo, Gaza, Iraq, Kenya, Lebanon, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Mozambique, Niger, Pakistan, South Sudan, Syria, Turkey, Uganda, and Yemen.

@alissaeverett

©2022 Alissa Everett

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