A free art exhibition at Vision Gallery is making its debut Aug. 30, with its artists hoping to change the way spectators view the U.S.-Mexico relationship.
The photos presented in the Through Each Other’s Eyes exhibit showcase the views of two Valley photographers, Gina Santi and Brandon Sullivan, and two Hermosillo, Mexico, photographers, Juan Casanova and Dionisio Corral, during an exchange to each country.
Through Each Other’s Eyes, a nonprofit, started in 1988 after hosting five exchanges between photographers in the U.S. and Japan. In 1995 the organization began hosting events between the U.S. and Mexico.
Santi, Sullivan, Casanova and Dionisio participated in the ninth exchange to Mexico hosted by Through Each Other’s Eyes.
As a result of the exchange, 20 pictures from each photographer have comprised an 80-piece collection, which has toured on display to the public of both countries with the hope of unifying people and celebrating their cultural differences.
“In a time of such division, our hope is that this exhibition provides a sense of unity through the powerful work of these photographers working across borders,” said Peter Bugg, the visual arts coordinator at Vision Gallery.
“I think there’s a lot of topics that can be very black and white and my way or the highway. Things that are being condensed to tweets and memes as opposed to bigger and broader ideas and full representations of people,” Bugg added.
The idea to showcase the images collected on the exchange in Chandler developed about a year ago when Bugg met Santi at an event.
Santi, a photographer on the project and social anthropologist, said the exhibit serves as a refreshing view on an age-old story.
“It’s just important to understand other cultures and not assume things because you read it in the news or you think something might be happening or because someone told you,” said Santi.
A Venezuelan native, Santi said perhaps she was biased about her experience in Mexico because she entered the exchange with an open mind.
She added she also speaks Spanish, which could have eased the tension between herself and those she interviewed during the exchange, but she generally had a positive experience during her time in Mexico.
“I’m sure as a society Mexico has its own problems because all societies do but that fear, that reluctance, it’s not as bad as people have been forced to believe,” Santi said.
“What I hope my images will show people is that Mexican people are not monsters. They don’t want to take over the United States or hate people from the U.S. or they are going to be killed or kidnapped,” she added.
The exchange on either end lasted for about 10 days as the photographers toured each area as a group.
During her time in Mexico, Santi said she visited Mexico’s busiest markets, night clubs and beaches.
Though from Mexico, Santi said the country still had flashes of “that shock-factor” as she was exposed to women who relied heavily on basket weaving and fishing from the ocean to survive.
Their skin had been leathered by the sun, and without access to health care in their immediate area many had no options if exposed to the various skin cancers caused by extreme sun exposure.
Though the women looked 70 to 80 years old, Santi said her jaw dropped when she found out a majority of the women were 50.
“I’m from there and that still shocked me a bit. So, imagine how much people don’t know about these countries they’re making assumptions about and how wrong they might be,” said Santi.
During the exchanged photographers’ time in Arizona, they went to Scottsdale, Jerome, Tempe Camera, the Phoenix Public Library and various museums.
“There were things right here that I didn’t appreciate before until the other photographers started shooting it. I learned a lot even while they were here, the learning didn’t stop just because I was in my country,” said Santi.
Santi said though she cannot speak for what the other photographers hope audiences take from the exhibit, she is optimistic spectators will see Mexico as more than “just a place to party on Spring Break or a bunch of drug dealers, because it’s not like that at all.”
On Sept. 7, a reception will be hosted at the Chandler City Hall complex from 6-8 p.m. where spectators can converse with the artists and ask questions about each piece. The exhibition will run at Vision Gallery at City Hall until Oct. 5.
The gallery is open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.