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Smith College Museum of Art in Northampton: Jerome Liebling Exhibit, Review

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Jerome Liebling Exhibit at the Smith College Museum of Art, Review

An Exhibit of the Renowned Photographer’s Work in Northampton

Green Giant Worker by Jerome LieblingAs you approach the Smith College Museum of Art (SCMA) in Northampton, Massachusetts, there are large, color banners catching the wind. These banners are for the larger of the current exhibits, specifically for Cross Currents: Art of the Southeastern Congo. The day I went to the museum (just a block away from where I work), there was even a special guide on hand to talk about the Cross Currents exhibition.

What caught my eye, however, was a darkened hallway on the second floor. This is where approximately 16 pieces of Jerome Liebling’s photography are on display.

Born in 1924, Liebling lived in the area (the Pioneer Valley) for close to 40 of his 87 years. He passed just this July after battling cancer. Liebling enlisted in the U.S. Army during WWII and served in the 82nd Airborne Division. When he returned from overseas, which left him extremely anti-war, Liebling studied photography at Brooklyn College and filmmaking at the New School for Social Research.

Liebling founded Hampshire College’s Film and Photography program and taught there for 20 years. He was married twice, divorced once, and has five children, who in turn have five children. His teaching “(inspired) a new generation of photographers and filmmakers.”

Liebling was an “internationally renowned photographer, filmmaker and teacher.” A quick glance at his art and it’s easy to see why his photography is known for “capturing the human spirit.” Liebling’s subjects may not be glamorous, but they’re real. There’s an element that makes the images very familiar, even though you have no personal connection to them.

Miners Wife, Hibbing Minnesota by Jerome LieblingOne of my favorites of his photographs that are currently on display is Miner’s Wife, which was taken in Hibbing, Minnesota in 1983. It’s a woman staring out of a screen door. Her hair is frizzy, her outfit does not match, and her eyes are not quite looking at the photographer, as if she has more on her mind than she wants others to know.

Further down the hallway are photos of politicians–a man sitting in a diner, a woman with a shopping cart, a little boy in front of a car–all people we may pass on a daily basis but don’t actually see.

Jerome Liebling’s photographs are on display at SCMA from now until January 20, 2012. His work is also being shown at the Mead Art Museum at Amherst College until October 30, and the Liebling Center at Hampshire College, also until October 30. For more information, visit

Halley Ofner is a Contributor to The Free George.

The Free George is the online magazine and visitors’ guide of Upstate NY, covering things from Albany to Lake Placid, including Saratoga, the Lake George region and the Adirondacks. Check out our City Blogs section for our extended coverage areas as well.

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