Photography exhibit opens eyes to Himalayan Cataract Project
Art can do many things.
It can evoke emotions. It can stir up memories, and transport the viewer to other worlds.
Art can also educate and help raise awareness.
It is for all those reasons that Gallery MAR will open a new photography exhibit called "Second Sight: Portraits of Asia and Africa with the Himalayan Cataract Project" on Thursday, April 28.
The exhibit features 20 black and white photographs taken by world-renowned photographer Ace Kvale that documents Dr. Geoffrey Tabin, co-founder of the Himalayan Cataract Project, and the nonprofit’s work to eradicate blindness in sub-Saharan Africa and the Himalayas.
Gallery MAR will display the exhibit through May 8 and will host a reception for Tabin and Kvale on Tuesday, May 3, beginning at 7 p.m., Kvale said during an interview with The Park Record.
"I’ve been shooting with Geoff and some of his colleagues since 2004 or 2005 and during that time, I’ve accumulated a beautiful library of images," Kvale said.
The photographer, whose images have appeared in National Geographic, Outside Magazine and, most recently, USA Today, considers the Himalayan Cataract Project works the most powerful images in his career.
"I sell them sporadically and we do fundraisers here and there, but we’ve never made them display material for the public to purchase," he said. "Geoff and I talked about this and we agreed that we need to get [the photographs] out where we can raise consciousness and funds and where art-buyers can appreciate them."
Kvale met Tabin in 2004.
"I went to an editorial meeting for Outside Magazine in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and the editor at the time asked me for some ideas," he said. "I had a list of projects I wanted to do and one of them was Geoffrey Tabin, whom I had never met, but knew through his incredible climbing career."
Kvale told the editor about Tabin, who recently launched a project involving eye cataract surgery around the world.
The editor liked the idea and sent Kvale to meet Tabin.
"When I met Geoff, I was so enthralled and amazed at his work, that it has became my life’s work, documenting what he and his colleagues do," Kvale said. "I go out once every 18 months to Africa or Asia and take photographs that document what they do."
Tabin, who is also a professor of ophthalmology and visual sciences and Director of the Division of International Ophthalmology at John A. Moran Eye Center at the University of Utah, was unavailable for an interview, however, the Himalayan Cataract Project’s communications manager Claire Wiley told The Park Record the nonprofit is utilizing the exhibit as a way to raise potential funds and also to raise awareness.
"Many people still don’t know what the Himalayan Cataract Project is and don’t know it’s fight against global blindness," Wiley said. "We do high-volume cataract campaigns in Asia and Africa. They’ll go between two to five days and hundreds of people will regain their sight."
In addition to Tabin’s work with the Moran Eye Center at the University of Utah, the Himalayan Cataract Project also partners with other organizations and ophthalmologists that help promote eye health in the developing world.
"There is a huge education and training arm to this as well, where they go train local doctors, assistants and nurses so they can continue to provide services," she said.
Throughout the past 11 years, Kvale has experienced that first hand.
"When we go on these trips, it’s like that old TV series ‘M*A*S*H,’" he said. "There are two or three surgeons, but they need help with patient flow, generators, coffee, flying and other logistical problems, so I also help with the patient flow and document it."
The patients trust Kvale because he is part of the staff and they allow him to take some very personal photographs.
"I can bring back these amazing images," he said. "I feel like I have a connection with my spirit to their spirit through my camera and I’m able to bring back images of people’s spirits, so to speak. My subjects give me their spirits. I’m not taking or capturing or stealing moments."
Kvale has found these missions some of the most challenging and most rewarding outings of his life.
"We go to tough places like South Sudan and Rwanda and work 12 to 16 hours a day and it is hard work," he said. "But to do such rewarding work is more rewarding than any mountain climbing or ski expedition that I’ve ever done. To help restore sight to people is more amazing than I could ever imagine.
"Dr. Tabin is driven by his mission," Kvale said. "He could have been a well-to-do orthopedic surgeon, but instead, became one of the best eye surgeons in the world. He is a brilliant man and to have him invite me on these trips is amazing."
Selecting the work for the show was relatively easy, according to Kvale.
"Through the years, I have always found two, three or four that have stood out as my best works," he said. "I take these photos and work with a great editor and lab to make the photos the best they can be."
Gallery MAR owner Maren Mullin, who will donate 20 percent of the gallery sales to the Himalayan Cataract Project, said exhibits such as "Second Sight" are as important for the gallery as they are for Park City.
"At Gallery MAR, connection to our community is essential," Mullin said. "I’ve always felt that my space is an extension of the non-profit work that I do in Park City and hosting art shows for groups like the Himalayan Cataract Project is a delight for both the senses and the heart."
Gallery MAR, 436 Main St., will present "Second Sight: Portraits of Asia and Africa with the Himalayan Cataract Project" from Thursday, April 28, to Sunday, May 8. The gallery will host a reception for Dr. Geoffrey Tabin and photographer Ace Kvale on Tuesday, May 3, beginning at 7 p.m. For more information, visit http://www.galleryMAR.com .
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