Art, Davis Library, Exhibits, Global

Photographs by Christopher Sims: Guantánamo Bay and The Library at Camp Delta

GBay_ExhibitOPENS SEPT. 30

Guantánamo Bay and The Library at Camp Delta
Davis Library Gallery
Opens Sept. 30, 2015

An exhibition of photographs by award-winning photographer Christopher Sims will be on view in the Davis Library gallery beginning Sept. 30.

Guantánamo Bay and The Library at Camp Delta depict rarely-seen built environments through photographs that the Washington Post called “an important visual chronicle… [shot] with a dispassionate eye.”

On Sept. 30, Sims will deliver an artist lecture about the photographs, making use of the immersive Liquid Galaxy Google Earth display in the Research Hub of Davis Library. The free public talk will begin at 5:45 p.m., following a 5 p.m. reception and exhibition viewing.

“[Guantánamo Bay] holds a certain meaning to us,” Sims told NPR in 2012, “but we don’t really know what the place looks like.” In the end, it took Sims more than two years of writing letters and submitting applications before he was allowed to visit the site and take photographs of environments and objects, but not of people.

Sims is the Undergraduate Education Director at the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University. He received the Baum Award for An Emerging American Photographer in 2010; was named one of the “new Superstars of Southern Art” by the Oxford American magazine in 2012; and is a 2015 recipient of the Arte Laguna Prize, one of Italy’s most prestigious photography awards. He is available to visit with classes about his photography projects based at Guantánamo Bay.

Sims is represented by Ann Stewart Fine Art, which organized the exhibition.

ARTIST STATEMENTS by Christopher Sims

Guantánamo Bay

In 2006 and 2010, I traveled by plane, ferry, and bus to the naval station and joint detention facility at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

On this small spit of land, on approximately 45 square miles held in perpetual lease by the U.S. military, actors from the world stage converge: American interrogators attempt to wrest information from Muslim “unlawful enemy combatants”; Jamaican and Filipino guest workers are imported by contractors to serve food, cut hair at the barbershop, and wash the laundry; and on the base’s residential streets that resemble an American suburb, a handful of Cuban families who fled Castro’s takeover of the island live out their days in exile. Against this backdrop, there are also strikingly mundane activities that take place: children go to school, guards pick up coffee at McDonald’s and Starbucks, and backyard barbeques are planned.

Restrictions by the military made making photographs of people at GTMO impractical, so I chose instead to photograph the environments that people create and inhabit rather than the people themselves, the stage sets rather than the players.

The Library at Camp Delta

The Library at Camp Delta is a site-specific installation and exhibition. Situated in Davis Library, the exhibition echoes the library location where the images were made at the U.S. Naval Station in Cuba. Visitors passing through the library exhibition space will encounter in a quiet way images that in part blend in naturally with the very shelves surrounding them on campus.

By focusing on the interior lives of those at Guantánamo Bay—the prisoners who read and watch materials from the library and who take drawing courses there, the professional librarians who carry out their duties in this remote facility, and the censors who black out parts of the library’s newspapers—the exhibition offers a unique viewpoint into the controversial and infamous prison camp.

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