Los Angeles —LAM Gallery is pleased to announce The Strength and the Spirit, a benefit exhibition of emotionally stirring photographs by Sean O’Neal. O’Neal, a photographer who earned acclaim taking unedited photos of nature in remote regions in California, has created a series of powerful, raw images documenting the aftermath of the April 25, 2015 Nepal earthquake. At a devastating magnitude of 7.8, the quake and its aftershocks killed almost 9,000 people and injured over 21,000 one year ago. O’Neal’s photographs, taken 2 months later, reveal the permanent marks the earthquake has left on the Nepalese people and landscape.
O’Neal traveled to Nepal in June 2015 with CITTA, a non-profit organization focused on supporting development in some of the most economically challenged, geographically remote, and marginalized communities in the world. Traveling first by car and then on foot, O’Neal accompanied CITTA relief workers as they visited the capital of Kathmandu and smaller cities, all reduced to rubble by the earthquake.
“First Mazegaoun, then Gorkha, and then Baseri. All three villages were in ruins,” says O’Neal. “Without electricity, the people in them live completely off the land. Regular monsoons provide food and drinking water, but because the villages are in such remote locations, they lack the medical supplies and professional care needed to treat lasting injuries and sicknesses.”
While CITTA worked to build small health posts and begin providing basic medical treatment, O’Neal focused on documenting the incredible strength of spirit of the Nepalese people. One of his photographs features Hari, an eager young tour guide, whose right arm was mangled after a break that went untreated. Another portrait depicts an older woman gathering corn amid the ongoing chaos and confusion. In another, schoolchildren stand attentively in 3 rows in a classroom that is itself only halfway intact.
O’Neal uses color and composition—like sunlight glinting through cracked walls and hitting his subjects from behind—to emphasize the strength and conviction of these men, women, and children. His portraits capture them coping by turning to community, faith, and normative routines, all of which reveal the earthquake as a lasting, malignant aspect of their new everyday reality.
O’Neal’s photographs will be on view at LAM Gallery from June 4 to 18, 2016, with 25% of the proceeds from the benefit exhibition supporting CITTA’s ongoing work in Nepal. In a New York Times article published on the one-year anniversary of the quake, Ellen Barry observes that many in Nepal still “pin their hopes on promises of foreign aid.” “Outside … the capital,” Barry writes, “many towns and villages remain choked with rubble, as if the earthquake had happened yesterday.” 770,000 Nepalese households, she reports, still await the subsidies they need to rebuild their homes. The Strength and the Spirit attests that global relief must take the form of a sustained effort in order to match the lasting impacts and socio-economic inequities laid bare by natural disasters.
Sean O’Neal was born in 1987 in New York City and lives and works in Los Angeles, California. He is a self-taught photographer with a commitment to working without retouching, who has won attention and quickly generated a large following through social media. O’Neal’s painterly approach to the medium is informed by Johannes Vermeer, J.M.W. Turner, and Casper David Friedrich.
Tania Stavreva, recognized as one of the most versatile young pianists, will be performing classical pieces on the piano throughout the reception.
For more information go on: WWW.CITTA.ORG