1947 Roswell, a new body of photographs by Syracuse-based artist Allison Beondé, is meant to undermine and challenge widespread perceptions of truth in photography. Currently on view at Aviary Gallery in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts (a suburb of Boston), the pictures aim at a more poetic kind of truth, oscillating between images photographed in New Mexico by Beondé, historical images she researched in the Roswell town archives, and evocative photograms made without a camera in the darkroom. All of this mirrors the shifting narrative of James Ragsdale, a key witness to the famous alleged flying saucer crash, whose account of the events changed throughout his life.
"The incident of 1947 was not isolated, nor entirely unique, but the questions surrounding government coverup, secrecy, and conspiracy shook the nation," Beondé explains. "I'm not interested in recounting the story of James Ragsdale as a credible source, or as an exercise in documentary or historical photography, but simply as what it is—a story; one that is open-ended, unresolved, strangely beautiful, and for the most part, regarded as a lie."
Perhaps, then, this poetic way of recounting the story through imagery is actually closest to the truth. In the wake of the controversy surrounding this spring's announcement of the World Press Photo Awards, in which a photojournalist was accused of staging images, many in the photography world have been forced to question the reliability of the images that add to our collective histories every day. What kind of truth can pictures offer? What kind of truth can ever be attained where human subjectivity is concerned? 1947 Roswell doesn't offer any answers, it instead presents the suspenseful and unsettled reality of one of America's great mysteries.
1947 Roswell will remain on view at Aviary Gallery through September 26. It was made possible in part by a 2015 Traveling Fellowship through the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, as well as a 2015 Light Work Grant.