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New exhibit captures African souls

By Lorne Stelmach

Judith Voth recalls an image of a woman working at an orphanage in the Ethiopian capital city of Addis Ababa.

“It was her eyes that really grabbed me,” the Winkler-based photographer recalls on her website.

“They shimmered with a deepness that I had never seen before. They told a story of genuineness, of love, of living with purpose beyond oneself.”

It is capturing that level of authenticity that drives her creative spirit and can be found in her own images which make up a new exhibit that has been featured this month at the Pembina Hills Gallery in Morden.

Beautiful Souls: Portraits of Africa is featured to the end of September at the gallery in downtown Morden.

Voth is on hand at the gallery for a reception this Friday (September 20) from 7 to 9 p.m.

Having grown up in Niagara on the Lake before moving to Winnipeg, Voth has now called Winkler home for the past six years.

It was here that she began to grow her interest in photography and develop it from doing family photos and portraits.

In 2011, she was then asked to accompany a group going to the African country of Malawi, and it was that trip during July and part of August that year from which this exhibit developed.

And with their youngest daughter having been adopted in Ethiopia in 2007, there was an established connection with Africa, she noted.

“Africa is part of the fabric of our family. It’s something very dear to us,” said Voth.

She said it was important for her to be able to spend enough time with the people she met and photographed there

“It was important for me to develop those relationships before taking those individual portraits,” Voth commented.

“For me, I think relationship comes before my camera. I think there’s a lot of trust that happens when you represent somebody ... especially with an exhibit like this.”

Developing a level of relationship allows you to better convey something about people at a deeper level, she added, creating more of a connection for herself as well as the viewers.

“You can go deeper into who they are as a person ... and even tap into the circumstances they are in ... you get a feel for who they are,” she said.

And she has found a strong network of like-minded people through the International Visual Peacemakers. Through their website, it states it is “devoted to peacemaking and breaking down stereotypes by displaying the beauty and dignity of various cultures around the world.”

She feels a strong commitment to that vision.

“There’s a common thread throughout my community here, people here, and right across the world in terms of how we are as human beings,” she said.

“I’ve seen similar traits in friends and people I know here in Winkler and friends that I know in Malawi and Ethiopia.

“Sometimes, when you go into a community you don’t know, you sometimes clump people all together as well. Suddenly, when you build relationships, you see people as individuals ... a sense of beauty comes out of that with each person.”

You can find out more about Judith Voth and her work on her website found at www.judithvothphotography.com.


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