O N E E V E R Y O N E is the newest photographic portrait series commissioned by UT’s public art program, Landmarks, for the Dell Medical School.
Artist Ann Hamilton photographed over 530 participants from the Austin community to emphasize the connection between contact and caring. The faces are elusive, obscured from the viewer. The camera concentrates on one thing: the contact of touch. The project has expanded from its original medium, taking multiple forms including approximately 70 architectural porcelain enamel panels that will line the corridors of the Dell Medical School and a newsprint publication featuring contributions by poets, philosophers, scientists and essayists.
“This project’s basis was in trust and in making people open up to the possibility of contact through photographs,” Hamilton said. “Trust is the only way to make people receptive to the work we do.”
As part of the unveiling of this project, a discussion was held at the LBJ Auditorium on Thursday night with Hamilton as well as Matthew Goulish, Brian Rotman and Natalie Shapero, whose writings are featured with some of the photographs in its newsprint edition. The speakers debated the themes of the photographs.
“There is a uniqueness to touching,” Rotman said. “Unlike the other senses, you can’t touch without being touched. This sense, in my opinion, sets the ground for empathy.”
According to Landmarks’s website, participants stood behind a frosted, plastic material that puts whatever it touches in sharp focus and softens receding features. To viewers of the resulting portraits, the cloudy screen becomes the image surface, binding visual and tactile perception.
Hamilton said the project was framed from the idea that human touch is an essential means of contact and, more importantly, a fundamental expression of physical care.
“There’s a posture of vulnerability to these photographs,” Shapero said. “To show themselves to a camera or a giant screen, these people have proven to me that trust is possible even in the strangest of situations.”
Sean Kuehn, applied movement science freshman, said the project showed him how fragile human beings are when they are vulnerable.
“It really shows the humanity of people,” Kuehn said. “As a scientist, finding a person’s humanity is the most important part of working with humans.”
A selection of Hamilton’s photographs will be featured in the Visual Arts Center from Friday night to Monday, Feb. 24 before being moved to the panels in Dell Medical School.