A work in progress project, “Anguish in the Aftermath: Examining a Mass Shooting,” by internationally published photographer, Ian Witlen, is to be open to the public on Sept. 26 at 6 pm through Nov. 16 at the Coral Springs Museum of Art. The exhibition comprises of 51 “30 by 40” portraits and individual audios for each photo.
Those who come to see the piece at the Coral Springs Museum of Art will have the option of an audio device. Each photo has its own audio, in the voice of the subject, saying what was being communicated in the exact moment the photo was taken.
“The photographs have their own depth to them, but when you hear what each person has to say, especially with it being in their own voice… it makes it all that much more powerful,” Witlen said.
The audio paired with each photo is meant to personalize the material even more, and allow the message to be more impactful. The text will also be transcribed next to the photos for those who choose not to listen.
This piece is meant to portray the individual experiences of a community following a mass shooting. It currently focuses on the people affected by the tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Witlen aspires to expand the project to other communities that endured a similar event. Witlen, an MSD alumnus, expresses that he wants this art piece to speak to the epidemic in general.
Witlen, a photojournalist, became involved on Feb. 14, 2018, when he was told there was a possible shooting occuring at MSD and was sent there to cover it. As time went on, he continued to follow the tragedy for different publications as he took photos at the vigil the following day, as well as at the protests throughout the next few weeks.
The idea behind the piece formed when Witlen learned that a number of students from MSD that had felt as though they did not have a voice, and were incapable of sharing their experience. This is due to them not being a part of a larger organization, “March For Our Lives,” that had captured the attention of many news outlets.
“I felt that everyone is entitled to their voice,” Witlen said.
The artist was committed to providing this voice for those who needed a source to do so.
Witlen began to pursue his idea in May of last year. The Coral Springs Museum of Art received a sample of Witlen’s work and decided to exhibit it. Originally, the project was to be 20-30 pieces; however, once the Museum listened to the audio of the photo, they offered to become a partner for the project and connected Witlen to additional partners, including the Community Foundation of Broward and the Florida Humanity Counsel. With time, the project expanded to include 51 pieces.
Witlen will be at the reception on Sept. 26 at 6 p.m. This reception is open to the public, and there will be a serving of food and drinks as well. This event is a way for the public and those who took part to experience the artwork together.
Witlen is excited about the opening and is confident it will be received well. The goal of this project is to portray the impacts a shooting has on a community and raise awareness on the matter.
After Nov.16, the exhibition will be displayed in a few local institutions that have yet to be disclosed. The piece will also be exhibited in the form of two touchscreen kiosks that will comprise of 59 photos and audio. These kiosks have been provided by the Florida Humanities Council. One kiosk will be at the Coral Springs Museum of Art and the other is to be displayed at the Museum of Discovery and Science.