Ann Arbor Weather:
Wednesday August 21, 2019
Follow us: facebook twitter RSS feed
photo of a Guatemalan woman

Maya Healers

Fran Antmann's photography

by Megan Inbody

From the October, 2018 issue

Climbing the steps to Lane Hall, home of the U-M Women's Studies Department, I anticipated an exhibit with a powerful statement on gender. When I walked through the door, I immediately I realized that preconception was misguided.

Fran Antmann's photography is indeed incredibly powerful--but rather than being women- or gender-specific, it casts a wider net, looking at humanity through the lens of indigenous communities in Guatemala. Antmann captures the relationship of these communities with their natural environment--especially water, because the ones she photographed live along the banks of Lake Atitlan--and with traditional Mayan culture and rituals.

Taking in the handful of black-and-white photos immediately inside the front doors, you'd be hard-pressed to determine whether the photos were taken recently or long ago; the landscapes and people within them appear largely untouched by time. It's only when you see additional pieces in the lobby, with glimpses of items like watches, that the images reveal themselves as modern. Antmann took them from 2006 to 2017, yet somehow the exact timing feels irrelevant. Her images are steeped in tradition, giving them a weighty, enduring quality that transcends time and fleeting trends. You're left with the sense that they'd be just as true, just as relevant, whether taken decades ago or in the years to come.

Every image is arresting and demands your full attention. Though the subjects are different, the images share haunting undercurrents. There's a palpable sense of mysticism, religion, and otherworldliness--perhaps not surprising, given her focus on indigenous healers. Most are captured outside, but one that I found particularly compelling was taken indoors, in a completely barren room in which two women attend to a child. I imagined one to be the healer giving medicine and the other, who holds the child's mouth open, to be the mother; her face is filled with love and firm resolve.

We're given slices of both everyday life and special ceremonies, moments from mundane to spiritual. The subjects' stoic expressions feel simultaneously

...continued below...


intimate and detached. We're left to fill in the blanks ourselves as to whether the moments are somber, celebratory, or somewhere in between.

After taking in her documentary exhibit, I was left wanting more. If you end up with the same craving, know that Antmann created a book out of this photography project, Maya Healers: A Thousand Dreams--it was a finalist for the 2017 Lucie Photo Book Prize and received Honorable Mention from the 2018 Prix de la Photographie Paris awards.

The exhibit runs through December 7.     (end of article)

[Originally published in October, 2018.]

 

 
Bookmark and Share
Print Comment E-mail

You might also like:

Childrens Activities in Chelsea
Today's Events
Restaurants with Senior Discounts
A clickable zoomable map
Morgan No More
York makes its debut as a "hip communal oasis."
Sabine Bickford
Restaurants with Diapering Facilities
A clickable zoomable map
Crowley Is Charged
Warren Hecht, deacon at St. Thomas the Apostle Church, remembers the phone call.
Michael Betzold
Ancient Color at the Kelsey
The vibrant past
Jennifer Traig
Ed's Bread Closes
Thom Byrd and Sandy Niethammer say farewell.
Billie Ochberg
A Unicorn Gives Back
Dug Song wants to build a culture of community investment.
Vickie Elmer
Education and History
One of the finest university art museums in the country, UMMA holds collections representing 150 yea
psychedelic event
Ann Arbor Observer 2019 readership survey