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Introduction: Geno Rodriguez

The Human Condition:Connecting the Dots
Although we live in the 21st century, a century that should be filled with advances for mankind throughout the world, we are instead living in one that is increasingly divided by religious, economic, and ethnic strife. It is also a world where too many of its inhabitants are living in abject poverty, hunger, and isolation, while ethnic and indigenous populations are suffering disenfranchisement—often by their own governments—through unspeakable violence and torture with no accountability. At the same time, large swaths of populations are dying from epidemics that have no cure—despite medical advances; as well as epidemics that could have been avoided if the wealthier nations of the world had cared enough. These consequences are all the more tragic because the basic tenets of global human rights have gone unfulfilled, a betrayal that not only affects wealthy nations but has devastating consequences for the poorer ones that are unable to take any solace from the economic, technical, and medical advances of the 21st century.

Thy Brothers' Keeper presents a story of diverse peoples who have endured, and continue to endure, intolerable conditions that violate the basic principles of humanity. This exhibition, shows us, through photographs, that we are all citizens of the world, not just a country, a state, or a neighborhood—and the hope is that it will encourage us all to take greater responsibility to ensure that the conditions under which our fellow citizens live are humane on all levels, and to remind us that we are all interconnected—we are, in biblical terms “Our Brother's Keeper”.

The photographs in Thy Brothers' Keeper chronicle the complex multidimensional issues related to global justice and human rights transgressions. Why is the morality of torture an issue today? What are the political motivations behind the many atrocities committed on a daily basis against civilians? Who profits from the many wars for peace? Are we responsible for the actions of our government? Where does the blurring begin between our image of who we are versus how we act, and does God take sides as religious extremism is driven backwards into the Middle Ages?

The images in Thy Brothers’ Keeper will, we hope, give viewers reason to pause and think about the causes and effects that bring about such human calamity. In a way, we are all perpetrators of injustice, although most of us don't know how or why and, if we do know, we are unwilling to claim our part in it, for fear that we might uncover answers that are at odds with our political, economic, or military interests. Although it is more comfortable to rely on simplistic answers, we can no longer avoid the profound questions that are exposed by this exhibition, because in the long run we cannot remain immune from the suffering of others—their pain, loss, disenfranchisement, and anger will eventually burst into our lives in ways we least expect. The events of September 11 did not occur in a vacuum. Whether we like it or not, to the perpetrators of that attack, there was a cause.

The men and women who took these photographs are compassionate individuals. They are deeply committed to global justice and the pursuit of happiness. We hope that through their powerful images viewers will engage more earnestly in the evolution of just and peaceful societies.

Most of these photographers have received international recognition and awards from prestigious humanitarian foundations as well as respected art museums and cultural institutions worldwide. Many have gone beyond their job “mandate” and put their lives on the line, donating personal time and effort to the very communities they have photographed.
The intention of presenting these thought-provoking images and the questions they pose within the context of art, instead of politics, is to open up new avenues of discourse within both the arts and education communities, as well as to provoke and invoke a sense of personal responsibility by stimulating a desire to become more involved in the creation of equality and justice throughout the world.

Thy Brothers’ Keeper cannot provide the answers to the many issues represented in this exhibition, however, the overriding goals of the project are to urge viewers to see beyond their own lives, beyond being a citizen of one country and instead become “one” with the rest of the world. Thy Brothers’ Keeper asks the viewer to join the photographers as partners in the essential and urgent need to advance the cause of human rights worldwide, and prove that art can be an effective voice in resolving conflict and promoting peace.

Geno Rodriguez
Director, The Alternative Museum
New York City, 2006.