An artist’s photo images of refugees

Today I went to a reception at an art gallery to see photographs — or to be precise,

Friderike Heuer

Friderike Heuer

photomontages — depicting the plight of refugees that were created by my new friend, Friderike Heuer. Friderike, who was herself an immigrant from Germany and is now a US citizen, takes her dog to the same dog park where I take my dog. When Friderike’s dog Milo and my dog Matilda began to play one day, Friderike and I began to talk. We had a lot to talk about, including photography, writing and politics.

In an artist’s talk given to the dozens of people who attended her opening at Camerawork Gallery, Friderike explained her process and her artistic expression regarding the suffering of refugees. She travels often to her former home and she is well aware of how Germany’s population has swelled from the influx of refugees and how much the system struggles to accommodate them. By comparison, the United States has taken in a mere fraction of people hoping for a better life.



Although Friderike once tried her hand at painting, she confesses that it is easier and more productive for her to use the computer to create painterly effects. Her photomontages begin with a landscape that may be from a number of European or Middle Eastern countries, or even from Sauvie Island, just north of Portland. Then she superimposes photos of refugees, mostly Muslims, as well as various structures or shelters that she has photographed in Europe and elsewhere. To add a mottled effect, she then superimposed photos she had taken at an abandoned steel mill, where the remaining pieces of metal had been tarnished and discolored by exposure to the elements. Finally, she applied color, usually vivid colors that helped express the desperation of people in transit.

Some of the photos had added elements of symbolism, such as “Seeking Shelter,” which

"Seeking Shelter"

“Seeking Shelter”

has Christian statuary and symbols scattered throughout. It was meant as an ironic statement, she said, recalling the Christian tenets of kindness, generosity and protection of the weak.

She prints her photomontages on German etching paper, rather than photographic paper. That is meant to lend more credence to the idea that these works of art are paintings.

Each of the large prints sells for $400 and Friderike will donate all proceeds to Mercy Corps for their continued work on behalf of refugees. Friderike’s art will be on display until March 3, 9 am to 4 pm Monday through Friday, and 9 am to 5 pm every Saturday.

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