The work of German photographer Louisa Marie Summer is driven by her interest in discovering the inner workings of other people’s lives. She is eager to look at what is beyond the surface and questions with her camera what she sees. Louisa’s photographs share her experience with Jennifer, a young second-generation Puerto Rican woman, whom one day Louisa approached in South Providence. Jennifer lives with her native American partner and their four children in a run-down three-bedroom apartment at or near the lower end of the socio-economic ladder. South Providence is an urban neighborhood with a large African-American and Hispanic population, high unemployment and crime rates, and where many families live well below the poverty line. Over time Louisa and the family developed a close relationship based on mutual understanding, respect, and trust.
Accordingly, Louisa’s photographs, captured over a year, provide an intimate view into the daily life of Jennifer’s family. They illustrate how a 26 year old mother, in spite of difficult living conditions, poverty, and illness, manages to maintain optimistic while thoroughly caring for her children. Louisa’s photographs show a quality of great empathy, but by no means does Louisa expose weakness or defect but allows each of her subjects dignity and personal impact.
Louisa Marie Summer, born 1983 in Munich, Germany, is a German photographer, currently based in Brooklyn, NY. In 2010 she graduated with a Master of Fine Arts in Photography from the renowned Rhode Island School of Design. Before Louisa studied Photo Design and received her Diploma from the University of Applied Sciences Munich, Germany. Louisa’s photographs and video explore issues of social structure, injustice, identity, and survival. She has worked extensively, among others, in India, Australia and the Republic of Georgia. In Tbilisi she documented the diverse lifestyles of contemporary Georgian youth, torn between religious and traditional values and the promises of Western status symbols like cars and the latest fashion.
Mairéad Byrne is an Associate Professor of Poetry and Poetics at Rhode Island School of Design and was Louisa Marie Summer’s teacher in the early days of this project. She now feels more student than teacher, being led out by Louisa’s photographs into real engagement with writing in service to community, and new relationships with people and neighborhoods in Providence, the city in which she has lived for nine years.