/14 Portraits

Dana Lixenberg

Jeffersonville, Indiana


Karel Schampers

Frans Halsmuseum/de Hallen, 2005

Dana Lixenberg’s photographs, like those of Cartier-Bresson, somehow find a subject’s deepest reality. Her portraits have broken through the well-tended exteriors of celebrities like Whitney Houston and Sean Penn as well as the hardened visages of Watts gang members. Now, with this book, Lixenberg finds the dignity in a group of people in Jeffersonville, Indiana. From 1997 to 2004, Lixenberg regularly visited the town to photograph homeless people who had found temporary shelters through Haven House Services. Characteristically, though, she does not confront us with spectacular, dramatic photos of the down and out, but discovers families put out on the street because they can no longer afford rent, single mothers who cannot support their children, and men who have been injured on the job without benefit of health insurance. Lixenberg’s clear-headed and empathetic vision comes through in this series of portraits of people who have only just fallen through the cracks.

Dana Lixenberg by no means pretends that she can effect social change through her work. She does try to make certain situations visible, tangible and recognizable to everyone. In her work, there’s no voyeurism of human suffering, but rather empathy and compassion. And that involvement leads to poignant and probing images of the vulnerability of human existence.