The journal of the Center for Documentary Arts, a nonprofit initiative to bear witness to suffering and promote the common good through the arts. At the crossroads of art, ethics, faith, and social justice, the Center brings together makers and thinkers whose work advances beauty, compassion, collaboration, dignity, and mercy.

30 December 2010

Best of 2010

It is with pleasure I can report that Battlesight is on two end-of-year "Best-of" lists.

David Brickman, in his blog Get Visual, named our exhibit in his Best Shows of 2010:

Battlesight: Dispatches from Iraq and Afghanistan by International Photographers stood out as a hard-hitting, carefully planned combination of three photojournalists’ personal visions of war (oddly enough, it’s the only show of photographs that made this list). 

And via Nippertown!, The Daily Gazette's Karen Bjornland included Battlesight in her recap, What We Loved This Year: Visual Arts.

Thank you, David and Karen (and friends at Nippertown!).

And thank you to all who helped me and the Center for Documentary Arts during our first year of operation. I am grateful to you one and all. And so we look toward 2011. . .  

25 December 2010

Poets of compassion

from 1933 stage adaptation
As we observe this Mass of Christ, I find myself reflecting on Jesus-as-philosopher at least as deeply as Jesus-as-redeemer. At this time of year in particular, no author captures the essence of Jesus's teachings quite like Charles Dickens. Dickens was a poet of radical compassion, and this speech from A Christmas Carol, spoken to Scrooge by his nephew Fred, is one of the most succinct expressions of Jesus-mind I know.

Warmest wishes of the holiday to all.

07 December 2010


I was on Joe Donahue's radio program "The Roundtable" yesterday to talk about Battlesight. The station reaches seven states and I'm grateful to Joe and WAMC for the opportunity to speak about the exhibit and photographers before such a wide audience. Here's the link to listen. 

Today is Pearl Harbor Day, which when I was a boy was a somber day of remembrance and reflection for people of my parents' and grandparents' generations. Today, the attack on the US Naval base by Japan in 1941 is less reverently observed, as those who were alive that day more and more pass from our sight.  As the paradigm of a Day of Infamy, Pearl Harbor has, of course, been replaced in contemporary America by the terrible events of September 11, 2001. That day, which we watched unfold together on television, will remain vivid in our collective memory until our grandchildren are old.

As I wrote that last sentence, a black image passed through my mind, of some future event even more horrific than 9/11 searing a new standard of horror on our psyches. It's dreadful to conjure, but how can anyone who's paying attention completely avoid it? As much as we live lives of courage and confidence, it is difficult not to harbor some fear for our future, some dread that America will yet again be the site of a monstrous attack. In this regard, December 7, 1941, was the beginning of an epoch in our national history of the omnipresent enemy, the evil Other bent on destruction. Hitler, Hirohito, Stalin, Khrushchev, Ho Chi Minh, Brezhnev, Khomeini, Noriega, Saddam Hussein, Bin Laden, Ahmadinejad, Kim Jong-il -- an unbroken chain of adversaries, some erupting on their own, others cultivated by our government inadvertently or deliberately to fulfill the requirements of a military-industrial economy.

It's a staggering thought, that this country has spent the whole of my half-century and more pursuing enemies. When I was in my twenties, a wave of articles and movies appeared detailing the consequences of nuclear war, and a threat that had been in the background through my childhood took on new urgency. I am too young to have experienced "duck and cover" drills or known anyone with a bomb shelter in their back yard, though I do remember the yellow Civil Defense signs in the steampipe-lined catacombs of my elementary school which led to a storeroom of mattresses and slowly rusting cans of food.  The Bomb was a vague threat in my consciousness during the 1960s and '70s, when Vietnam, street protests, and Watergate were much more immediate. In the 1980s, though, when we all learned the term Nuclear Winter, the feeling that civilization was provisional struck me deep. I remember a conversation I had at the time with an old New Englander about a great granite millstone we were admiring at a farm museum. "A thing like that'll last forevah," the man said in his Yankee inflection. "Or until the bombs fall," I thought to myself, shuddering at the notion we'd created a world where such a possibility existed.

My fear then was the product of a twisted manufacture, just as our fear of terrorist attack is today. That manufacture is a complex system of technology, ideology, economics, and propaganda. It is impossible for Joe Citizen to know how much of the threat is real and how much a construct. I swing wildly sometimes, from "recognizing" how dangerous the world is to suspecting the whole thing is a put-up job, created, as Lucy says in A Charlie Brown Christmas, "by a big Eastern syndicate." What I do know is that we will remain at the mercy of tooth and claw as long as we continue to choose conflict over cooperation. The way to enter a new epoch of peace is to be exemplars of justice and compassion. The question is, has nearly seventy years of being on the defensive changed our national personality in ways that prevent us from doing so?

02 December 2010

Bob Goepfert's "The Arts Whisperer"

A friend recently sent me this fine posting about Battlesight from the blog of the Troy Record's arts editor.  How eloquently Bob relates his experience of viewing the exhibit:

There is an eerie beauty about the photographs individually and collectively. While I found myself being hypnotized by certain images - especially the 2007 photograph by Balazs Gardi which shows an Afghan man holding a wounded child - when I stood in the middle of the gallery and slowly turned 360-degrees I became immersed in the whole to the degree it felt like an out-of-body experience. The circle transported me not to Iraq or Afghanistan but to a surreal world where pain, fear and suffering was the norm. This place is called war.

The rest of the post is here.  (Scroll down the right sidebar there to the list of past postings.)

Battlesight is on exhibit through December 19 at the Arts Center of the Capital Region in Troy.

23 November 2010

David Brickman's "Get Visual"

I'm still a bit dazed as I post this, by the generous and enthusiastic review of Battlesight from the Capital Region's premier art critic, David Brickman.  Here is how he begins:

It's as though the International Center of Photography opened a branch in Troy. The exhibition Battlesight: Dispatches from Iraq and Afghanistan by International Photographers is that good, and that important.

An extraordinary endorsement. The rest is here:

16 November 2010

Gallery Notes

Comments left by visitors after viewing Battlesight, 
to Cheryl, Balazs, and Teru for their extraordinary work. 

01 November 2010

Press: Albany Times Union

War with faces

Published: Friday, October 29, 2010

The Blue Mosque, Mazar-e-Sharif, Afghanistan 2007 (Photo by Teru Kuwayama)

The 32 photographs in “Battlesight: Dispatches from Iraq and Afghanistan by International Photographers,” which is the inaugural exhibition of the Center for Documentary Arts at The Sage Colleges, draw out an emotion that fulfills not only the mission of the show but also the mission of the center.

“The show raises our consciousness, not about a certain political agenda, but about our fellow human beings,” says Timothy Cahill, the center’s director. “That gets to the big word, which is compassion/empathy. If you open yourself up and don’t come in with one agenda or another, if you just look at the pictures, I think it’s impossible to walk away not having connected to their humanity.”

Read article

Press: The Daily Gazette & Metroland

The Daily Gazette (Schenectady, NY), October 28, 2010

Photos capture physical, 
emotional impact of war

Views of Afghanistan, Iraq wars bring home reality

Thursday, October 28, 2010

By Joanne McFadden

TROY — One assignment, three different results,
 all poignant statements about humanity.

That’s what visitors to The Arts Center of the 
Capital Region will see in “Battlesight: 
Dispatches from Iraq and Afghanistan by 
International Photographers,” the debut 
exhibition of the Center for Documentary Arts
at The Sage Colleges. It will be on exhibit through Dec. 19.

Timothy Cahill, founding director of the center, admits that there’s “something very 
brave about launching a not-for-profit devoted to documentary art and compassion in 
the midst of a great recession.” Yet he, along with founders Dr. Melvin Krant and 
Steve Lobel, did just that.

“Battlesight” goes to the heart of the center’s twofold mission: to use documentary 
arts to bring viewers into the lives of other people and as a result increase awareness 
of what we share as humanity and foster increased compassion for one another.

In part, Cahill chose the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan for the center’s first exhibition 
because it will be on view at the same time as The Sage College’s Veterans Week 
2010, and this was a way to highlight the activities of the center’s host institution. 
Despite the subject matter, the exhibition is not a political statement. Neither it nor 
the Center for Documentary Arts has a political agenda, Cahill said.

He chose three photographers who had worked in Iraq or Afghanistan on 
assignment to provoke a conversation about how documentary artists work and also
to give the public a closer look at what is taking place in that region of the world.
“I wanted the show to begin to be a dialogue about various ways these artists
take reality and mold it into something that’s truthful and communicate that truth,”
he said.

Full article here

Metroland, October 28, 2010


THIS IS WAR An exhibit opened at the Arts Center of the Capital Region
(265 River St., Troy) last week that we all would do well to check out. 
Curated by Timothy Cahill, Battlesight: Dispatches from Iraq and 
Afghanistan by International Photographers is a powerful collection of war 
photography by Pulitzer Prize winner Cheryl Diaz MeyerBalazs Gardi 
and Teru Kuwayama. The exhibit is on view through Dec. 19, but there 
will be a reception tomorrow evening (Friday, Oct. 29) from 5:30-9 PM 
during Troy Night Out.
The battle for Iraq on view at the ACCR: Cheryl Diaz Meyer’s Dust Storm (2003).

23 October 2010

Battlesight: Installation

Battlesight: Dispatches from Iraq and Afghanistan by International Photographers
The Arts Center of the Capital Region, October 22 through December 19, 2010
Opening reception, October 29, 5-9 pm

22 October 2010

Press: The Troy Record

The Troy Record, October 21, 2010

Art Center explores wars’ savage beauty

By Phil Drew
The Record
A man clutches a wounded child; both are grimy, peering out of darkness in the black and white photo. The man’s gaze is not toward the combat photographer who has snapped the image — embedded with U.S. troops fighting in the mountains and villages of eastern Afghanistan — but somewhere upward; toward an unseen soldier towering behind the cameraman, perhaps? Toward a bystander? Toward heaven?

Despite obviously severe wounds, the child appears calm, if grim, gaze directed the way as his protector’s. Are they imploring, accusing? Or simply presenting themselves to their unseen interlocutor, heavenly or worldly, proclaiming, ‘here I am,’ ‘deal with me?’ Crouching next to them, an older man touches the child; a doctor giving treatment? A village elder? A mullah? The youngster’s grandfather?

 There is something almost spiritual in the pose of man and child, reminiscent of the ‘Pieta’ yet shockingly contemporary. And the man laying on hands? "Something almost, dare I say it, rabbinical about that," says Timothy Cahill, showing off the image by photojournalist Balasz Gardi – one of three independent photographers whose work is on display through Dec. 19 in the main gallery of downtown Troy’s Arts Center of the Capital Region.

 "These pictures bring us to empathy," says Cahill. "It’s impossible to look at these photographs, to really look at them, and not, after going around the room, to feel connected with these other human beings."

Gardi’s work, along with that of Cheryl Diaz Meyer and Teru Kuwayama, makes up "Battlesight: Dispatches from Iraq and Afghanistan by International Photographers" – sponsored by the year-old Center for Documentary Arts at The Sage Colleges.

The images, curated by Cahill, the center’s founding director, are artful, beautiful photography, worthy of a gallery; but they are also reportage, unblinking, close-up, of the effects of war, psychological and physical and visceral. Their combined effect is not polemical and argumentative but a jolt of reality: "it strips us of abstraction," says Cahill.

Read full article here

05 October 2010

Press Release

For Immediate Release 
October 4, 2010 
Battlesight: Dispatches from Iraq and Afghanistan by International Photographers
October 22 – December 19 Reception: Friday, October 29, 5:30 – 9:00 P.M.

Free and Open to the Public

Presented by the Center for Documentary Arts in cooperation with The Arts Center of the Capital Region. 

Curated by Timothy Cahill

TROY, NY – The Arts Center of the Capital Region and the Center for Documentary Arts at The Sage Colleges is pleased to present Battlesight: Dispatches from Iraq and Afghanistan by International Photographers, a new documentary photography exhibit opening in mid‐October. The exhibit is a powerful collection of wartime images from Iraq, Afghanistan, and beyond by three renowned photographers whose work records the realities of life for combatants and civilians alike in lands far from most Americans’ view. The photographers, Cheryl Diaz Meyer, Balazs Gardi, and Teru Kuwayama, all international award recipients, represent a variety of approaches to contemporary photojournalism, from traditional news reportage to intimately interpretative documentary art. Battlesight is organized by Timothy Cahill, director of the Center for Documentary Arts, in cooperation with the Arts Center of the Capital Region and the Sage Colleges’ “Veterans Week 2010.”

Cheryl Diaz Meyer Dust Storm, Second Tank 
Battalion, U.S. Marines,  Iraq, 2003
Cheryl Diaz Meyer shared the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for Breaking News Photography with David Leeson for their “eloquent photographs depicting both the violence and poignancy of the war with Iraq,” made while both were senior staff photographers at The Dallas Morning News. Diaz Meyer covered the US‐led invasion of Iraq as an embedded journalist attached to the Second Tank Battalion of the First Marine Division. After the fall of Baghdad, she continued to cover the aftermath as a unilateral journalist. She has returned to Iraq numerous times, to cover the capture of Saddam Hussein and the infamous “spider hole,” the Al Mehdi death squads, the Iranian infiltration into Basra, and the regions tormented women, who set themselves on fire in an ancient practice of self-immolation. Diaz Meyer's work in Iraq was also awarded the Visa D’Or Daily Press Award 2003 at Visa Pour L’Image in Perpignan, France.

Balazs Gardi, Afghan man and wounded boy, 
Korengal Valley, Kunar Province, East Afghanistan,  2007
Balazs Gardi is a Hungarian photographer who documents the everyday life of marginalized peoples and communities facing humanitarian crises. He has photographed the effects of war in Afghanistan and Pakistan both as a unilateral journalist and embedded with troops from the United States, Canada, and Britain. His current long‐term project, “Facing Water Crisis,” examines, as he writes, “the vital yet destructive presence, crippling absence and strategic value of water worldwide.” Now working independently, Gardi was staff photographer at Nepszabadsag, Hungary’s largest national daily, from 1996 to 2003. He studied journalism and photography in Budapest and at the University of Wales, Cardiff. Among his numerous honors are the Prix Bayeux War Correspondents Award, the PX3 Photographer of the Year Award, three World Press Photo awards, a PDN Photography Prize, and the Global Vision Award from Pictures of the Year International. He is the recipient of grants from the Alexia Foundation for World Peace and Getty Images. He has photographed the effects of war in Afghanistan and Pakistan both as a unilateral journalist and embedded with troops from the United States, Canada, and Britain. His current long‐term project, “Facing Water Crises,” examines, as he writes, “the vital yet destructive presence, crippling absence and strategic value of water worldwide.” Now working independently, Gardi was staff photographer at Nepszabadsag, Hungary’s largest national daily, from 1996 to 2003. He studied journalism and photography in Budapest and at the University of Wales, Cardiff. Among his numerous honors are the Prix Bayeux War Correspondents Award, the PX3 Photographer of the Year Award, three World Press Photo awards, a PDN Photography Prize, and the Global Vision Award from Pictures of the Year International. He is the recipient of grants from the Alexia Foundation for World Peace and Getty Images.

Teru Kuwayama has published photographs in Time, Newsweek, National Geographic, Outside, Fortune, and Vibe, among other publications. His work on the Tibetan refugee diaspora received awards from the New York Foundation for the Arts and the Alexia Foundation for World Peace, and were exhibited at the United Nations and the Open Society Institute. The University at Albany graduate was named by Esquire as among the “Best and Brightest” of his generation for his reportage on the occupation of Iraq, and PDN included his work on Kashmir in a selection of 2005’s most iconic images in contemporary photography. In 2006 he received a Nikon Storyteller Award, a Days Japan International Photojournalism Award, and a W. Eugene Smith fellowship for his work in Afghanistan and northern Pakistan. Kuwayama is co‐founder of Lightstalkers, a professional and social network of photographers, media professionals, NGO workers, military personnel, and other “unconventional travelers.” He recently completed a Knight Fellowship at Stanford University and received a 2010 Knight News Challenge award. He is currently a 2010 TED Global Fellow and 2010 Ochberg Fellowship at Columbia University's DART Center for Journalism & Trauma.


Teru Kuwayama, The ruins of Kabul, Afghanistan, 2002 

Timothy Cahill is founding director of the Center for Documentary Arts at The Sage Colleges, a cultural/educational initiative for using art to raise humanitarian awareness and foster compassion. The Center for Documentary Arts, established in 2009, defines “documentary art” as those narrative forms of photography, film, oral history, theater, painting, poetry, etc. that address social themes and bears witness to the human condition. The Center’s conviction is that this “witnessing art” is a vital tool for stimulating personal empathy and collective engagement. In addition to his work at CDA, Mr. Cahill is a writer, editor, and visual artist. He was the art critic and cultural reporter for the Albany Times Union from 1996 to 2006, and art correspondent for the Christian Science Monitor from 1995–2007. His writing has won numerous awards and honors, including a National Arts Journalism Program mid‐career fellowship at Columbia University. Mr. Cahill has exhibited his photography in journals, galleries, and museums. His photographs are in the permanent collection of the Albany Institute of History and Art.

Gallery Hours
Monday – Thursday | 11AM – 7PM 

Friday + Saturday | 9AM – 5PM 
Sunday | 12 – 4PM

About The Arts Center: For nearly 50 years, The Arts Center of the Capital Region has enriched the lives of hundreds of thousands of people. A regional arts center, it offers classes, camps, exhibits and performing arts events. Artists of all ages and abilities are encouraged, mentored, and nurtured in a collaborative, supporting and accepting environment.

The Arts Center’s 36,000 square feet of space include discipline‐specific studios for pottery, printmaking, culinary arts, jewelry making, woodworking, painting and drawing, stained glass and dance, among others. It also includes a 99‐seat theater for performing arts events, and its three galleries are noted for their critically acclaimed contemporary exhibits.

Learn more about The Arts Center of the Capital Region and its offerings at .

Timothy Cahill, Curator and Director of the Center for Documentary Arts 
(518) 292‐1951 

Caroline Corrigan, Exhibits Manager at The Arts Center of the Capital Region 
518.273.0552 x 222 

15 September 2010


We are halfway through our monthlong campaign to match the $10,000 challenge grant from Chet and Karen Opalka (see previous post, "A $10,000 Vote of Confidence," for details). Our goal is to double their gift by the end of September, and interest has been steadily increasing as a number of new supporters have come in to help with the effort.  Every dollar we raise effectively becomes two when placed beside the Opalka funds. Thank you to everyone who has assisted, and welcome to all who will join in.

 Balazs Gardi, Afghan man holds a wounded boy
 outside their house in Yaka China village, Korengal Valley,
Kunar Province,  East Afghanistan, October 2007

The funds are certainly appreciated now that we have moved into the production phase for the exhibition Battlesight.  If you're new to the blog, please see the Pages section of the sidebar to read about this exciting exhibit featuring three international photographers covering the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  This is not a pre-existing or traveling show, but an original exhibit organized by the Center for Documentary Arts for the Capital Region.  The show will feature new prints of all the images, printed by NancyScans Corporation in Chatham, New York. These are the same folks who printed the photographs for Richard Prince's 30-year retrospective at the Guggenheim three years ago, and the quality is stunning. The images themselves are powerful and important. The photographers--Cheryl Diaz Meyer, Balazs Gardi, and Teru Kuwayama--bear witness to the reality of war for combatants and civilians alike. There are moments of courage, of suffering, of heroic endurance and grace. 

Battlesight opens October 22 at the Arts Center of the Capital Region in Troy, New York, with the public reception on Troy Night Out, October 29. The show runs through December 19. 

Cheryl Diaz Meyer, US Marine Corporal Richard
Cope, 23, of Michaigan,  enjoys the scent of a rose
from the gardens of Baghdad College, April, 2003 

Shows of this technical and artistic caliber seldom originate in the Capital Region, and I am looking forward to presenting this work here first.  My hope is that from Troy we will be able to travel the exhibit to other venues outside the region. Arrangements for that are in the works. I am in the homestretch with preparations, overseeing the framing, preparing the catalog, contacting the press, planning events. Lots of work, but it is a privilege and a joy to be doing it on behalf of the artists and their extraordinary work.

Teru Kuwayama, Ruins of Kabul, Afghanistan, 2002

Save the dates: Battlesight is organized in collaboration with the five-day conference Veterans Week 2010, organized by The Sage Colleges for November 8-12. For more information, follow the Veterans Week 2010 link in the sidebar. On December 9, the Center for Documentary Arts will hold a symposium at the Arts Center on battlefield photography featuring three generations of war photographers, from World War II to the present.  I will post details about that event as it gets closer.

Thank you everyone for your interest and support.

12 August 2010

A $10,000 vote of confidence

As a small start-up nonprofit, the Center for Documentary Arts at The Sage Colleges deals with the same challenges many cultural organizations face, struggling against the vicissitudes of a sluggish economy and declining philanthropic resources. The Center was initially conceived in the fall of 2008, just as the financial bottom fell out of the US economy and we were facing the very real possibility of a new Depression. The winner-take-all ethos of mid-decade gave way to a growing awareness of America’s vast population of have-nots, which was growing every day as people lost houses and jobs. A period of collective concern emerged for the hardships of others, hardships many of us worried might be ours tomorrow. The decision was made to move forward with the Center for Documentary Arts, with a mission to foster and stimulate this emergent empathy through the power of art.

It took a year from that point to officially launch the Center with The Sage Colleges as our host. I am looking forward to my first anniversary in November by preparing exciting programming for the coming fall and beyond. We are just about to go public with a series of offerings in the months ahead, including an eloquent collection of children’s art from Vietnam, a moving and inspiring portrait exhibition of burn survivors by photographer Steve Lobel, and a documentary film series at an exciting public venue.

These programs are in addition to the Center’s major initiative of the Fall 2010 season, Battlesight, an original exhibition featuring the work of three world-class battlefield photographers, one a Pulitzer Prize winner, who have covered the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. These are images you won’t find on TV or in most publications; stark, powerful, haunting views of the wars we’ve been waging for nearly a decade.  There’s a wealth of information about the show and participating photographers on the Battlesight page and links, both on the sidebar, and I invite you to spend some time looking.

Mounting an exhibit of this importance requires a sizeable financial commitment, which brings me back to where I began, thinking about fund-raising. One of the realities of an arts administrator’s job constantly attempting to attract money. The Center relies entirely on individuals and organizations who believe in our cause, and slowly over the past months has found a small-but-growing number of such generous souls, bless them all. Recently, our fund-raising efforts were raised to a new level with a single stroke, when prominent cultural philanthropists Chet and Karen Opalka announced a major gift of $10,000, with the challenge that we match the amount before the end of September.

Chet and Karen Opalka
This is an extraordinary gift, both for the material support it provides and the huge vote of confidence it represents for our vision and activity. I am more than a little overwhelmed by the Opalkas' generosity, as I have been by the open hand of all those who have come aboard to aid us. Now I am inviting anyone and everyone interested in our work to join the Opalkas, our other donors, The Sage Colleges, and myself as we move ahead to Battlesight and the future. In the immediate term, contributions will help cover the costs of printing and framing the exhibition, creating gallery labels and an exhibit catalog, transporting and lodging the artists for public programs, spreading the word about the exhibit, and other expenses.  Remaining resources will be used to support the Center's mission.

As we cross the threshold into new levels of growth and accomplishment, this is an exciting time at the Center for Documentary Arts. If you can help with a tax-deductible donation in any amount, please contact me at this blog or call 518-292-1951.  I will be happy to tell you more about the Center and send you an information kit that describes our activities in detail. Thank you for reading and for your continued support.

Something beyond the void

In his book  Pictures and Tears , James Elkins describes the charged silence that fills the Rothko Chapel in Houston, Texas. The space ...