There is a great transcendence that occurs in the photographs of Abigail Hadeed. In them we find private cultural acts made public, grand gestures that both humble and transform. They bear witness to life, and what life lives in us. They are the tentative moments that confirm mortal acts, and permit a connection to something beyond the obvious. The images she creates have an almost spiritual aspect, giving the viewer something more to take away than what they see on the surface.
Hadeed’s photographs linger and sustain thought, they place into form that which was once unformed. It is to this end that the vision of Hadeed is complete. Her work is fulfilled by an eye rich in empathy, whose vast understanding knows more than the surface of things. Hers are the tender responses to dirt and sky, public ritual, and the melancholy acts of common affairs. Her intense vision strikes at the essential intimacies of others, and creates a language of compassion for both suffering and joy. The images are pronounced with eloquence and grace, confirming that things seen are things known.
Hadeed’s vision emerges from dark trays, under pale safe lights, as her hands dance under a bright lens, burning and dodging as images are constructed and revealed. It is in the darkroom that her vision goes far beyond sight, and permits access to what others may possibly sense in private. In them one may smell smoke, taste tears, and listen to the steady beat of drums. Here her blue devils ‘(Jab Jab)’ scavenge in the bright light of day, as faces stand frozen in age-old ceremonies. Hadeed’s images follow the unique contours of a great and sincere spirit. They reveal honesty and lies, and for this, Hadeed lays bare the facts of volition. Not for the purposes of being understood, as so many would wish, but rather to understand the intricate threads that bind us to life.
It is this life, in all its imbalances and tragedies, in its inconceivable scars and beauty, which ties us to the mystery of her wanderings. Hadeed’s photographs help us to grip the tender soul, the well-worn eyes of experience, the patient observations of light and meaning found intimately in ‘Fish Broth’ and ‘Bookman.’ They show deep respect for those seen, but seldom heard. Here, her beloved Trinidad resounds in life and death, celebrated for what it is, and for what she hopes it may also be.
Hadeed reveals what is present in the full soul of a photographer whose identity is born of necessity. For this, she devoutly practices the art of revealment in committing her vision to the people of the Caribbean and Latin America. For this, she offers the uncensored acts she lovingly collects. Through her photography, Hadeed carefully arranges an ownership of these events, dedicated to what can be retrieved through the lens and made solid by the print. To her, it is a private act, offered to those she loves and honors. It provides her with a sustaining balance of purpose and power. It succeeds in lifting her up, as we too rise when experiencing her work. From this positioning, we see more clearly, and in doing so, we are brought closer to what may be believed in others.
Her photographs depict longings made visible. Of things tattered by time and experience, and that defy proper description. They are the chronicles of faces made clear by a photographer’s love and devotion of purpose. They are the unexpected discoveries of Hadeed’s incessant wanderings, through the massive evidence that confirms life and death. They teach us what reality cannot, and in doing so, relinquish those fine details delicately woven within us.
©2007 Don Gregorio Antón
Abigail Hadeed lives in Trinidad. Hadeed’s residency was sponsored by Autograph ABP, located in London. She participated in Light Work’s Artist-in-Residence program in June 2006.
Don Gregorio Antón is a professor of art at Humboldt State University in Arcata, CA. He participated in Light Work’s Artist-in-Residence program in June 2006.