The Ricco Maresca Gallery’s newest exhibit featuring the work of photographer Tim Freccia documents the complexity of the social structure in South Sudan. Through a collection of portraits captured in early 2011, Life and Death unveils the reality that exists beneath the nation’s intense political unrest. After over 100 years of tension between The Dinka and Nuer, Sudan’s political power has fallen out of balance and rests significantly in the hands of The Dinka. Tim Freccia began documenting the differences and conflict between the two ethnic groups around three years ago, capturing portraits of the group members and moments from their everyday life.
Freccia states, “What’s important to me about these images is to separate these combatants—humans that are at what I call ‘redline’—from their environment. I want to do this because despite the fact they live in extreme poverty and have committed what we call warcrimes, there is humanity. I want to capture that. I believe that their expressions and posture say a lot.”
Tim Freccia, White Army, 2014, Type C-print surface mounted, 84 x 42 in; 213.4 x 106.7 cm
Freccia’s work outlines the political transformations that have occurred due to the British colonial rule of Sudan in the 19th century. Ethnic tension has led to eruptions of violence and civilian-led attacks catalyzed by the imbalance of political power between The Dinka and Nuer. Without a central source of power, the armed individuals directly created an organic collective, representing a set of social and political beliefs.
“I have witnessed the humanity of the peoples of South Sudan and have been deeply moved by it,” Freccia says. “The current events sadden me greatly and remind me of my inability to fully comprehend the complexity of these ancient social relationships no matter how close I ever get. It’s easy for so many to express compassion… I will remain on the fringe, at times suddenly thrust into the middle of it, and do the best I can to capture some of that humanity visually.”
Tim Freccia, Yirol, 2011, Type C-print surface mounted, 84 x 42 in; 213.4 x 106.7 cm
With over 25 years of traveling and exploring some of the world’s most poverty and violence stricken locations, Freccia’s body of work documents and communicates with the remainder of the world these unexposed realities. Freccia’s collection of images in Life and Death exposes the raw, savage nature of South Sudan while reminding its viewers that, despite the state of this compromised nation, it is composed of human beings no different than those we are surrounded by.
Behind every war and outburst of violence rests the motives of an individual, a social group, or even a collective nation. Freccia looks beyond the commonly accepted belief that anyone involved in a dangerous act is simply out of irrationality and instead outlines the humanness of the individual. His collection of images eliminates the factors of distance and ambiguity caused by social stereotypes and brings into direct view the human being that exists behind the act.
Tim Freccia’s provocative exhibit, Life and Death, is open now through September 13th at the Ricco Maresca Gallery.
Text by Kate Marin
All images courtesy of the artist and Ricco/Maresca Gallery