Lofty intentions, those. And while I don't doubt for a moment Rodriguez's sincerity, it's difficult to imagine people seeing this show and then rushing out to become politically engaged, unless they were already so inclined. Still, if the people passing through "Thy Brothers' Keeper" gain even a smidgen of greater understanding of man's inhumanity to man, even a hint of deeper compassion for their fellow human beings, the efforts will have been worth it. These images demonstrate again and again that our capacity for inflicting senseless suffering on one another seems infinite.
Two contrasting quotations posted in the exhibition — I forget the exact context — struck me as especially relevant to the state of today's world. One is from photographic genius Henri Cartier-Bresson: "We photographers deal in things which are continually vanishing, and when they have vanished, there is no contrivance on earth that can make them come back again." The other quote is from Charles A. Kupchan, writing in the Washington Post in April 2005: "The rest of the world watches America; America watches American Idol." He might just as well have said, "While Darfur collapses in chaos, America can't be distracted from Paris Hilton."
On display through August 26 at the Boca Raton Museum of Art, 501 Plaza Real, Mizner Park, Boca Raton. Call 561-392-2500.
One interpretation of what Cartier-Bresson meant, I think, is that photography can be seen as the conscience of the human race, a means of documenting what goes on among us and trying, at least, to keep us from forgetting it. And while photographers such as the ones included in this exhibition go about doing exactly that, America turns its back on the world. It's a tragedy of unspeakable proportions.