Photographer Laura Crosby captures the passage of time in stunning ways

We’ve all heard the maxim “a picture is worth a thousand words,” but photographer Laura Crosby wants her work to do more than convey ideas; she wants it to provoke action.

It's About Time

Traffic Zone Center for Visual Art

Wayzata-raised Crosby has been documenting social issues for over three decades. Her subjects are those marginalized by society: the homeless, refugees, victims of domestic violence and sex trafficking, patients with anorexia or bulimia, and people with Alzheimer’s. She likens her photographs to canaries in the coal mine. “If people see an image, it can serve as an awakening,” she says.

Her latest exhibition, “It’s About Time,” opening Friday at Traffic Zone, is composed of 11 photographs that explore the passage of time through double exposure (called “layering” in digital photography). Envisioning the life path as a spiral that circles back on itself rather than as a line moving only in one direction, she addresses changes in societal issues such as war, information, agriculture, energy, and transportation by “collapsing” the gap between then and now, past and present.   Each photograph is paired with a quote for context. An image of a farmer manually tossing hay into an ox-pulled wagon is merged with an image of a tractor and accompanied by David Brower’s words: “The more we pour the big machines, the fuel, the pesticides, the herbicides, the fertilizer and chemicals into farming, the more we knock out the mechanism that made it all work in the first place.”

An old-timey image of Crosby’s grandparents is layered with another of her granddaughter and two friends gazing at a laptop screen. It is particularly resonant with Regina Brett’s quote: “Sometimes you have to disconnect to stay connected. Remember the old days when you had eye contact during a conversation? When everyone wasn't looking down at a device in their hands? We've become so focused on that tiny screen that we forget the big picture, the people right in front of us.”

A picture taken in Turkey of a trench from the Gallipoli Campaign during World War I is layered beneath an image of an aircraft carrier. Along with it, Albert Einstein says: “I do not know with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.”

Crosby withholds her own opinion on whether life was better in the past or if the world, with all its so-called “advancements” (technological or otherwise) is getting worse. All of the photographs are original, though some look like they could have come from a historical archive. Perhaps that’s an effect of using black-and-white, a style she’s stuck with since she began shooting in the '80s. “I started to see in black-and-white,” she says. “If I took a picture in color, it didn’t work for me. Color is a distraction.”

There’s something strangely timeless about “It’s About Time”; for all the changes the world has seen, people still harvest food; they still gather with loved ones to socialize; they still wage war. The ways people do these things may have evolved, but the patterns of human life have not. Whether that’s reassuring or disturbing is up to the viewer to decide. You might not even need a thousand words.


"Laura Crosby: It’s About Time"

Traffic Zone

June 3 through July 14

All Ages