Helen Maurene Cooper

The Photo Review Award

Helen Maurene Cooper (lives Philadelphia, PA) earned a BA from Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson, NY and an MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, IL. She has exhibited at the Gaylord & Dorothy Donnelley Foundation, Chicago, IL; Space Mountain, Miami, FL; Soap Factory, Minneapolis, MN as well as at Onomatopee, Eindhoven, the Netherlands and Claremorris Gallery, Mayo, Ireland. Cooper has received awards and fellowships from the Knight Foundation in 2020 and 2021, the Cultural Council of Eindhoven, the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and the University of Chicago. Her monograph Paint & Polish: Visual Economy and Visual Culture from the West Side (Onomatopee, Eindhoven, the Netherlands, 2017) was reviewed in Bust.com, Creators Vice Magazine, New City and Nails Magazine.

Statement from the Artist:
“The Caregivers” is a series of ambrotype portraits made from my doorstep during the Covid-19 pandemic, using a large format, analog film camera. These portraits challenge the historical notion of East Kensington (Philadelphia) as a white working-class community. By depicting the racially diverse, queer and heteronormative inhabitants of the neighborhood, I am reframing history and challenging racism, classism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia and ageism. “The Caregivers” comes from my lived experience as both a mother and a daughter and weaves together a narrative of participation, place-making and world-building. I begin each photographic collaboration by taking a long walk with my subjects. Over a series of multiple sessions, I conspire with them to tell stories of how they cherish, uphold and safeguard each other. By making work within the community and in public space, I weave together issues surrounding the role of caretakers in families and position the emotional and physical labor of caretaking as a radical act, shifting the perception of power and the dynamic of family structures.