Famous Men | The Butterfly Effect


RaMell Ross, Here, from the series South County, AL (a Hale County), 2012

Famous Men
Helen Levitt, Kadish Morris, RaMell Ross, Lorenza Mondada with Nicolle Bussien and Sara Keel

Exhibition Dates: January 10 – February 8, 2020
Opening Reception: January 10, 6 – 8PM
Reading Group: Saturday January 11, 5PM

Curated by Freya Field-Donovan and Alexandra Symons Sutcliffe

“Let us now praise famous men and our fathers, that begot us” is a citation from the Bible taken by James Agee to title his and Walker Evans’s documentary photo book Let Us Now Praise Famous Men (1941). Commissioned by Fortune magazine as propaganda for The New Deal, the realism of Evans’s photography and Agee’s text is found both in their representation of poverty and in the varied and mutating relations they documented. The history of American democracy is tied to racial division; in America during the twentieth century, it was God that separated and bound. Agee and Evans fold the sensuous and the spiritual into their work, as this exhibition brings together contemporary practitioners and historical documents that address documentary as a means to distribute power and access, but also hope and grace.


Freya Field-Donovan is a PhD candidate in the History of Art department at University College London. Her PhD is titled A Strange American Funeral and focuses on dance and technological reproduction in 1930s America.

Alexandra Symons Sutcliffe is a writer and curator based between London and Berlin, her work is focused on performance, documentary and artist moving image. She has curated exhibitions and programmes at PS120 (Berlin), ESSEX STREET GALLERY (New York), the Whitney Museum of American Art (New York), The Kitchen (New York), Auto Italia (London), Jupiter Woods (London), Arcadia_Missa (London) and ma ma (Toronto). She is currently a Phd candidate at Birkbeck University, working on British portrait photography of the 1970s and 1980s.

Freya and Alexandra are long time formal and informal collaborators. They began their work together in 2014 by hosting the reading group Fidelity in Alexandra’s bedroom. In collaboration with the gallery Jupiter Woods, they have been running the Let Us Now Praise Famous Men reading and research group since 2017.

Reading Group: Let Us Now Praise Famous Men
Saturday January 11, 5pm

“Who are you who will read these words and study these photographs, and through what cause, by what chance, and for what purpose, and by what right do you qualify to, and what will you do about it?”
—James Agee, 1941

In conjunction with the current exhibition, Famous Men, Gallery 44 is pleased to host a collective reading and discussion group focused on James Agee and Walker Evans’s 1941 photo book Let Us Now Praise Famous Men. Evans’s photographs of 1930s tenant farmers in Hale County, Alabama, are some of the most iconic American portraits of the twentieth century, and have molded both the practice of photojournalism and the discourse on the representation of poverty. The photographs, however, were never intended as stand-alone representations; they were part of a book project comprising forty uncaptioned images by Evans and five hundred pages of prose by James Agee. This reading and looking session takes the book as its object of inquiry and poses questions about access and understanding, performativity within graphic representation, and how past contexts can be brought to bear on our present political climate. At the session, we will take turns to read aloud and pose questions to each other and to the text. The images will be passed around, the document re-shuffled. No prior knowledge of the history of the book is required and we invite anyone with an interest in portraiture, documentary, and the project of democracy in the United States to attend. The session, which will last approximately two hours, will be intimate and convivial.

The Let Us Now Praise Famous Men research and reading group was initiated in 2018 by art historian Freya Field-Donovan and curator Alexandra Symons Sutcliffe, with the valuable support of London gallery Jupiter Woods. This session will be co-lead by Field-Donovan, Symons Sutcliffe.

Please email heather@gallery44.org if you would like to attend.

Read the review on Akimblog.


Jawa El Khash, Still from The Upper Side of the Sky, 2019

The Butterfly Effect
Jawa El Khash

Exhibition Dates: January 10 – February 8, 2020
Opening Reception: January 10, 6 – 8PM


Working in three-dimensional spaces, Jawa El Khash’s practice investigates nature, architecture, and immigrant and refugee culture. Her fantastical virtual reality work The Upper Side of the Sky resurrects the agriculture native to, and destroyed architecture of, the Syrian desert around Palmyra. A chrysalis chamber is also featured in this digital world, positing the monarch butterfly as a protagonist to explore metamorphosis, migration and return. The Butterfly Effect will employ holography to further El Khash’s exploration of these themes.


Jawa El Khash (born 1995, Damascus) is a multidisciplinary artist and researcher working in the mediums of virtual reality, holography and painting. Inspired by technology, nature and her own heritage, her work aims to build new relationships with cultural artifacts, plants, insects and architecture. Her work deals with political and geographic displacement, immigrant culture, digitization, archives and 3D world-building. She utilizes technology as a media to re-structure the narrative of species such as plants, butterflies, the Arabic alphabet and destroyed ancient ruins.

Jawa El Khash will be hosting the workshop Collaging in Unity on Wednesday, February 19 at 6:00PM. In this workshop, participants will be working with Photoshop and Unity to integrate JPGS and PNGS into Unity to use as textures. Register here.


Gallery 44 is open Tuesday to Saturday 11AM to 5PM | Free admission
Gallery 44 Centre for Contemporary Photography is a charitable, non-profit, artist-run centre committed to supporting multi-faceted approaches to photography and lens-based media. Founded in 1979 to establish a supportive environment for the development of artistic practice, Gallery 44’s mandate is to provide a context for meaningful reflection and dialogue on contemporary photography.

Gallery 44 is committed to programs that reflect the continuously changing definition of photography by presenting a wide range of practices that engage timely and critical explorations of the medium. Through exhibitions, public engagement, education programs and production facilities our objective is to explore the artistic, cultural, historic, social and political implications of the image in our ever-expanding visual world.

Gallery 44 Centre for Contemporary Photography
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Toronto, Ontario M5V 3A8
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Maegan Broadhurst
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