Despite Primo Levi's dire warning about the "inadequacy of documentary evidence," Robert Gardner's work shows that capturing the light reflected from actuality has its revelatory moments. Including nearly 500 photographs, "The Impulse to Preserve" contains the thoughts and images of a lifetime spent probing human experience in the world's most remote corners. In each undertaking, an issue or condition common to humanity is intently observed. In Neolithic West Papua in 1961, it is ritual warfare and revenge; in Nigeria 1965, ritual pain; in Ethiopia in the late sixties, male supremacy; in Niger 1978, envy; and in Benares, India, 1985, mortality and its expression in worship.
Robert Gardner is an Associate of the Harvard Department of Visual and Environmental Studies, Founding Director of the Harvard Film Study Center, and Former Director of the Harvard University Carpenter Center.