Books Rosalind Fox Solomon Looks Back at 'The Forgotten'

By David Schonauer   Wednesday November 24, 2021

Victims of landmines in Cambodia.

Children caught up in the violence of Northern Ireland.

A Black housekeeper kneeling on the floor next to a smiling white mother and daughter in Johannesburg, South Africa, in 1988.

A man in NewYork reckoning the devastation of the AIDS crisis in the 1980s. A survivor of the Hiroshima atom bomb, photographed in Los Angeles in 1986.

These are some of the images collected in photographer Rosalind Fox Solomon’s new book The Forgotten (Mack), a look back at her long career and people she encountered on journeys around the world. The book spans six continents and five decades, from 1974 to 2019, and, as she told the British Journal of Photography recently, is meant to reflect on events now largely forgotten.

“Most of us,” she says, “don’t think about what happened when the nuclear bomb was dropped, what happened to people; the fact that there are mines still going off in the fields of Cambodia, many years after the end of the war there… That’s what was in the back of my mind: to face some of these questions or situations directly. To confront people with them.”

Fox Solomon’s pictures introduce us to people who are chained to these forgotten events, notes New York’s Foley Gallery, which is showing the work through December 5. Many of the events seem to be personal in nature, meaningful to Solomon if not historians. A photo of Mardi Gras festivities in New Orleans might at first seem out of place in a book that touches on the wounds of conflict, noted Feature Shoot recently, until you learn “that Fox Solomon traveled to New Orleans in the early 1990s because she needed a break from witnessing the traumas of war and violence. She slept on a sofa in an unfurnished apartment in the French Quarter. “

The book jumps through time and geography haphazardly and supplies little in the way of words to explain context—only captions with a place and date, along with a few titles and poems.

“Still, the narrative is gripping, and gradually unfurls into subjects that are harder to confront and accept,” notes the British Journal of Photography. “Echoes of similar scenes between decades show us that when history repeats itself, it does so more severely. Images of people missing eyes and fingers in the book’s early pages give way to those with more severe injuries and disfigurements. Many of these belong to survivors of nuclear bombs and mine explosions. An image of Princeton University alumni marching in a reunion parade is followed by one of smartly dressed American veterans with missing limbs. On the following page are two Vietnamese men; one with a mutilated face and one holding himself upright with suspension bands. The sequence of The Forgotten reveals a complicated hierarchy of power between the untouched, the remembered, and the forgotten.”

“It’s just putting things in, and taking them out, and going over and over them,” Fox Solomon says. “Somehow it seems to come together.”


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