Salt Lake City–based Andrew Fillmore’s Proof is a jubilant photographic embodiment of something close to a personal manifesto. For Fillmore, his surroundings and his peers are living proof of the joy and goodness of the world and one another, despite “a society that does not believe we are on the same side.”
Mostly taken in the past two years and all shot on 35mm film, Fillmore’s photographs put people—or what makes us people—at the forefront in a subtle way. Even in the more muted or still photographs, there’s a quivering sense of aliveness, a vibrant closeness in Fillmore’s subjects and their interactions.
Proof is personal: It’s not only Fillmore’s documentation of his world and an introduction to those closest to him—people who forge and grow, run and leap, protest and discover—but it’s also a palpable beauty, sincerely captured by Fillmore and reenacted through pigment prints. In one, two people sit in a bathtub, one in the other’s easy embrace, framed by a ghostly shower curtain and white tile. In another, a group of men stand naked on a concrete platform above water, looking away from the camera, quietly and assuredly surveying their world—another hoists himself out of the water to join them.
In most of the photographs, no one faces the camera—when they do, their faces are partially blurred or obscured. One girl flashes her beaming, toothy grin through a raindrop-streaked window (but we can only see her eyes); a silhouette plays her cello; someone holds a “COP HATER” sign, but their faces are cut out and all we can see are their knuckles, tattooed with “F-A-B-U” (and we hope that the other hand’s knuckles read “L-O-U-S”). There are more images that show people farther off and moving away from the camera, walking along a road or on top of a mountain or into the shadows, their presence made muted and meditative by their surroundings but no less relevant. Then there are those images of many, many people together, bound in a space by ritual or faith or anger: a huddled mass at a clean-air rally, for example, or a long, peaceful barrier made up of people in a field, joined together by their hands. Fillmore portrays people not so much in their element, but as one with their element, another integral part of the beauty that surrounds them, and vice versa.
Proof is a fitting show for the Mestizo Institute of Culture & Arts Gallery, which aims to provide a platform by which overlooked voices can tell their stories. Seeing that it’s part of the Mestizo Coffeehouse, the gallery becomes even more of a shared space—a meeting place—by which we can continue to foster the candid connections and moments that Fillmore so forthrightly chronicles, celebrates and insists upon in his exhibition.
There’s something to be said about Fillmore’s work, too, which manages to embody both artist’s statement and life philosophy: These are uncluttered ideas and stripped-down moments, but they’re often impossible to describe in words. For Fillmore, photography is a means by which he can bring to light and declare something as crucial, as worthwhile. He captures people—living proof—at their most triumphant: jumping the fence, falling through cracks, creating and inventing, grasping for one another, reaching splintered palms to the stars.
Proof will be on exhibition through Sept 13. The opening reception will take place Aug. 21, 6–9 p.m. For more information about the exhibition or the gallery space, visit the Mestizo Institute of Culture & Arts’ website at mestizoarts.org.