Speaker: Michael Nye

Images and Voices on the Edge of Revelation

"Every person - every place is a map to somewhere else." - Michael Nye

Alejandro went hungry as a child and describes hunger as a "lion in your stomach that wants to be fed." Christine became a mother at 15 and expresses her hopes to "build a home across the street from my parents." Taylor reflects on her brother who lives with mental illness: "The great thing about him is he is always creative," and, "Unfair things that people shouldn't say are 'crazy' and 'are you retarded?'"

What these individuals have in common is that they are all subjects of the soft lens of photographer and audio documentarian Michael Nye, who has been traveling the world for 30 years to capture unique stories, images, and voices. "Each face invites you to listen," he writes. "Stories are often found resting on the edges of surprise and revelation. Everyone knows something important and valuable, a precious wisdom born from experience."

Michael's work focuses on remembering and holding on to voice and story and image and presence. One person at a time. "What is forgotten is lost." He can spend up to four days with a subject. He will then, for the purposes of his exhibits, distill everything down to one image accompanied by a five-minute sound clip. "It's a slowly revealing process, like unwinding a ball of string.... It's not about those people, but about humanity."

Wherever he travels, Michael carries an antique 8x10 camera and a voice recorder. He has been aptly described by National Public Radio as "part reporter and part anthropologist" too. His projects have taken him to Iraq during the first Gulf War, refugee camps in Palestine, as well as Siberia, China, Morocco, and Mexico. His documentaries, photography and audio exhibitions, "Children of Children -- Teenage Pregnancy," "Fine Line -- Mental Health/Mental Illness," and "About Hunger & Resilience" have traveled to more than 150 cities across the United States.

His newest exhibit is called "My Heart Is Not Blind -- About Blindness and Perception," based on seven years of listening to men and women who are blind and visually impaired. Michael explores how perception and adaptation are deeper than we can imagine, and much more mysterious. "How does anyone, blind or sighted understand the world outside themselves? These conversations focus on the deep and shifting pools of perception and the mystery of transformation. Our other senses, separate from sight, have their own wisdom." In 2019, he published a book by the same name, My Heart Is Not Blind - About Blindness & Perception, and in 2023, launched a podcast with 47 episodes devoted to the subject (Season 1). Season 2 of his podcast (forthcoming) will focus on Hunger & Resilience.

Michael has received numerous awards, including the Mid-America National Endowment for the Arts grant in photography and two Kronkosky Charitable Foundation grants. He has also received the San Antonio Arts & Letters Award and the Dr. Jacob Bolotin Award from the National Federation of the Blind. He has participated in two Arts America tours in the Middle East and Asia. His work has been featured on NPR's All Things Considered.

Michael is currently working on a series of essays/photographs relating to the nature and complexity of photography and aesthetics. Michael writes: "Photography is not just about Photographs, they are also about what is imagined or remembered inside and outside the borders of the photograph at that moment in time. Mood rearranges understanding. Care attaches weight and gravity. Experience wraps its arms around a moment. Perception rises like bread and is rarely limited to what is directly in front of us. Photographs specialize in time travel moving from now to then. The language of 'looking' goes deeper than surfaces."

Before full-time photography, Michael practiced law in the appeals court for ten years. He lives in San Antonio, Texas, with his wife, the poet Naomi Shihab Nye.

Please join Pavi Mehta and Danusha Lameris in conversation with this gifted photographer and keen listener of the soul.

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