This may look like it’s from a picture postcard, but it was a surprise
for me to see a lone fisherman in the Jaffna lagoon where fishing had been totally
banned during most of the past two decades. The ceasefire, despite its problems, had
added a ray of hope for many people of the Northern & Eastern provinces of Sri Lanka.
–photographer Sri Walpola on “Jaffna Fisherman”
This is the episode in which we are on Staten Island! Because a friend recently tipped me off to this:
War & Peace in Sri Lanka Photos by Sri Walpola
(Click for the show’s official description. Thanks, Deepti!
I am not posting any of the photos here, for obvious reasons … but if you scroll to the end of the post, you’ll see two ways to see some of them much of the rest of the show too. EDITOR’S NOTE/UPDATED 8/11: Sri Walpola and I have been trading messages, and he generously offered to send me pictures to put up here. I have interspersed them with the text that I originally posted, and included his captions.)
Unless you are already lucky enough to live on Staten Island, head to the ferry and take the boat over there. Staten Island has a substantial Sri Lankan community, and indeed, if you find your way into the St. George Library Center (not far from where the ferry docks) and a kindly library staffer thinks you look Sri Lankan and/or confused, he may not even wait for you to ask where the show is before he points you downstairs, toward the reference room. It is possible that this is the warmest reaction you will ever have to being profiled.
If it is the weekend, neighborhood residents will be reading, or perhaps checking e-mail. Comfy chairs and tables are scattered about. Card catalogs, tables. The people leafing through newspapers or working quietly on laptops will not look up to watch you scan what hovers above their heads: the photography of Sri Walpola, a former presidential photographer in Sri Lanka. His pictures of the civil war in Sri Lanka are on display here for the first time in the U.S.
The twentysome pictures on the walls range from heartbreakingly hopeful pictures of the ceasefire to devastating portraits of families separated by fences and displays of military and militant firepower. Some of the pictures are printed in a high gloss; others are matte, so that they appear almost like oils, or old movie stills. A friend describes one as especially painterly–a Jaffna fisherman standing in his boat, the blue of the background dark and pure behind him, the line between water and sky nearly seamless.
(ED 8/11: Obviously that’s the photo up top. Click for more of his pics.) Continue reading