FotoFest Exhibitions

Jeff Brouws

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In documenting graffiti in the northeastern United States, Jeff Brouws has discovered that urban environments are one of the few places in the United States where political viewpoints are expressed directly—unlike in Europe, where one encounters sociopolitical commentary almost everywhere. Quoting Martin Luther King Jr.’s “violence is the language of people that haven’t been heard,” Brouws’s textbased project Language of the Unheard (2006-2008) explores the political and vernacular expression of the language-filled cityscape. Chronic poverty and racial segregation don’t register in the consciousness of most Americans, and poor urban inhabitants often feel invisible and forgotten. The graffiti in Brouws’s photographs pithily expresses the social realities of the inner city and directly confronts societal issues such as race and poverty.


Influenced by Wim Wenders’s 1997 film The End of Violence in which crime is stopped by surveillance cameras installed on every street corner in Los Angeles, Jeff Brouws, with his photographic typology of surveillance cameras throughout the United States, has revealed a ubiquitous presence of monitoring in public spaces and questioned how that has affected our privacy. With its Orwellian tone, heightened by homeland security rhetoric, the surveillance camera emerges as a symbol of the government’s monitoring of its citizens.

Jeff Brouws, born in 1955 in San Francisco, is a self-taught photographer who has spent the last twenty-five years tirelessly exploring and documenting the American cultural landscape. He has lectured at the Society for Photographic Education; School of Visual Arts, New York; International Center for Photography, New York; Rochester Institute of Technology, New York and the University of Nottingham, United Kingdom. His work is represented by galleries worldwide including Robert Mann, New York; Robert Klein, Boston; Robert Koch, San Francisco; Craig Krull, Los Angeles; and Toni Tapies, Barcelona. His work is found in the collections of the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles; the Fogg Museum, Cambridge, Massachusetts; the Princeton University Art Museum, New Jersey; the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Publications include Approaching Nowhere (New York: W.W. Norton, 2006) Readymades: American Roadside Artifacts (San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 2003), Highway: America’s Endless Dream (New York: Stewart, Tabori & Chang, 1997), and Twenty six Abandoned Gasoline Stations (Santa Barbara, California: Gas-NGo Publications, 1992).