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Photos document lives of ‘people on the border’

Published: Thursday, Sept. 20, 2012 5:30 a.m. CDT

Part of the Northern Illinois University Art Museum’s Southeast Asian Exhibition Suite, “Karen: A People on the Border” chronicles the lives of the Karen people as they have struggled to survive on the Thai-Burma border since 1962, coping with the repercussions of a 60-year civil war. This exhibition, featuring the documentary photography of Robert Gerhardt, will run through Nov. 17.

Gerhardt received his bachelor’s degree in anthropology/sociology and art history from the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass., in 1999. In 2007, he earned his MFA in photography from the Art Institute of Boston at Lesley University in Boston. He is a digital photographer at the Whitney Museum of American Art and has lived and worked in New York City since 1999.

Gerhardt photographed the Karen people within the border town of Mae Sot, Thailand, in 2006, documenting the challenges they face as they deal with continuous warfare, destruction, poverty and exploitation. Gerhardt attributes the success of this documentary series to the Karen people.

“The photographs in this body of work are the result of my being granted access to the lives of the Karen people by the Karen people,” he said in a news release. “Without their trust in letting me into their world, this project would not have been possible.”

The NIU Art Museum is located on the first floor, west end of Altgeld Hall in DeKalb. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and noon to 4 p.m. Saturday.

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