Reclamation/Reclamación: Genesis Báez

Central Library
Grand Lobby

September 19-October 31, 2018
Central Library, Grand Lobby Cases, 2nd Floor Cases
An exhibition dedicated to issues surrounding environmental and social justice, Reclamation/ Reclamación presents the work of emerging photographer Genesis Báez. The photographs presented here mobilize the double meanings of “reclamation”: to salvage or reclaim material and to reassert rights through visual storytelling. The reclaiming of rights to social and natural resources is particularly charged in light of global climate migration and structural inequalities, compounding the existing inequalities already faced by diverse populations.

This exhibition opens on the one year anniversary of Hurrican Maria, which hit Puerto Rico on September 20, 2017, reminding us of lagging relief efforts there and the new normal of global climate catastrophes happening with increased frequency.

Genesis Báez began taking photographs as an artist on her family’s land in Yabocoa, Puerto Rico ten years ago. Her practice since then represents an ongoing commitment to photograph the richness of place and of cultural life on the island and the diaspora of its people, as well as the economic and environmental effects of US regimes of power on the island. More recently, this includes a visual account of the complex challenges presented by climate change and catastrophic weather events such as Hurricane Maria. Visual signifiers such as “safety blue,” a color used in Federal aid-issued blue plastic tarps, appear in her post-Hurricane images. Her portraits and landscapes tell stories of migration and reverse migration between the island and mainland US and consider the fine line between care and violence embedded in colonial power relations.

Alongside her narrative images, Báez finds other indirect means to represent places and people. This is where water and climate become doubly significant as materials. Báez’ eponymous photo series, Reclamation/ Reclamación, 2013-2015, converts the power of water and humidity into an artistic medium and catalyst to develop a group of non-representational photographs. For this series, Báez took photos of natural landscapes throughout Puerto Rico and then buried the 4 x 5” film negatives at the same sites where the images were originally taken. After exposing the negatives to moisture and the elements underground, she recovered these weathered bits of film and pulled prints from them. Similarly, in her Water Studies, film negatives were submersed in Caribbean ocean water for one month, in November of 2015, and afterwards, scanned and printed. The prints reveal salt crystals and the hidden structure of film as it interacts with water’s chemistry. Both series show the corrosive and expressive powers of water, light and earth. The artist’s expansion beyond the narrative image reveals invisible codes and materials of place—a distinct photographic impression of the island that is central to her art. 

A selection of Báez’s narrative and conceptual photography will be on display.

A public intervention will, through an open call, invite climate refugees from any part of the world to share their stories with the artist and an oral historian on October 26th. To register for this event please see the event page here and email

About the Artist
Genesis Báez is an emerging artist and educator currently living in New Haven, CT, by way of Philadelphia, Boston, and Puerto Rico. Working primarily with photography and video, Genesis is interested in exploring people's relationship to history, place, and power.

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