‘Made In China’

JCC exhibit showcases ‘Made In China’ photography

Photo submitted to Times Observer Monika Garami, of Warren.

While the phrase “Made in China” is ubiquitous in America, the journey — and sheer effort — behind it are so rarely explored.

After all, who are the factory workers behind our products? What are they like? How does everything travel thousands of miles to our local department stores and eventually our homes?

Indeed, thanks to three artists, whose documentary photography is displayed at Jamestown Community College’s Weeks Gallery, the answers are much clearer.

On Wednesday, Patricia Briggs, director of the Weeks Gallery, led an informal discussion about the exhibit — aptly entitled “Made In China” — with Monika Garami, one of the three artists featured.

The exhibit, according to Briggs, shows the link between China and America by depicting the movement of goods between the two – how they’re made in China and ultimately purchased by American consumers.

Photos ranged from a Chinese woman patiently sewing a piece of clothing to a large warehouse in America brimming with Chinese-shipped containers.

Included are photographs from Brian Ulrich and Youbing Zhan, the latter of whom is a Chinese factory worker turned journalist, who after taking photographs of his fellow workers, inspired the idea for the exhibit itself.

Briggs said she hoped Garami, an award-winning nature and landscape photographer, originally from Hungary and now a resident of Warren, could add a local angle to Youbing Zhan’s work.

“p1″>”This was the first time I’ve ever done documentary photography,” Garami said. “It was a great learning curve for me, but I really  enjoyed the process. I met so many people and formed so many relationships. And by bringing people information that they wouldn’t normally get to know about, it inspired me to do more.”

Garami, who’s also an employee of Blair Corporation, focused her efforts on Chinese-made clothing as it made its way to Bluestem Brands distribution center in Irvine.

Her black-and-white photographs capture the shipping port at Bayonne, N.J., where containers from China are first unloaded onto American soil by large, automated cranes. She also captures the inside of a semi-truck’s trailer, filled with packages headed to department warehouses.

Garami described the whole process as a “monster of an operation,” one that baited her to learn more, and in the process, face increasingly tougher obstacles.

It was nearly a yearlong process, she said, filled with delays relating to background and security checks via the port authority, and approvals from Blair Corporation management. In the end, she added, many of her photographs were forced to be deleted for security concerns.

“They were very particular on what I could and could not show,” said Gerami, with a smile.

At the conclusion of Wednesday’s discussion, Gerami described her inclusion at the Weeks Gallery as a “great honor.”

“I didn’t think in a million years that I’d ever be in the Weeks Gallery,” she said. “Everything they’ve done has been incredible … and it has been an amazing experience.”

For more information on photography by Gerami, visit ZsebArtPhotography.com or call (760) 415-6884.

For more information on the Weeks Gallery, call (716) 338-1300.