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#2701 Jānis Miglavs at Camerawork Gallery
November 4, 2018 @ 4:00 pm - 5:00 pm
Jānis Miglavs, Five Fingers
November 3rd – November 30th, 2018
Artist Talk, Sunday, November 4th, 4PM-5PM (artist reception to follow to 6:30 PM)
301 N. Graham Street, Portland, OR 97227
Located in Lorenzen Conference Center – Legacy Emanuel Medical Center Campus.
9am – 6pm, Monday-Saturday, Sunday, 10am-4pm
Free off street parking available, Stair and elevator access
Portland, Oregon commercial photographer Jānis Miglavs notes, “What started in 1999 as a disappointment at seeing one of my images on a billboard has evolved, over time, into the photographic illustrations included in the upcoming Camerawork Gallery exhibition as well as a book.”
Wanting to do more than just make money with his work, Miglavs embarked on an 18-year journey to learn the stories, myths and archetypal dreams from Africa’s most remote tribes. He had learned what Anthropologists and DNA tell us, that we—all modern humans—are distant descendants of Sapiens who walked out of Africa some 60,000 years go.
So he conjectured that these tribes might have distant threads to the primal stories the ancients told around the cooking fire before they left Africa. Could it be, perhaps, our modern religions and beliefs are evolutions of those ancient stories?
After recording the stories, Miglavs needed to take photos for his photographic illustrations. This often resulted in humorous situations. For example, he would ask the Tribal Chief to lay on his bed so Miglavs could photograph him to use in a dream illustration. That would be like asking the Governor to fake like he was sleeping so Miglavs could photograph him for his project. One time, Miglavs had to pay a Shaman a little extra—because the Shaman didn’t want people to think he was dead. Anthropologists tell Miglavs he is the only person to have recorded the stories he’s depicted in his photographic illustrations.
Miglavs’ African adventures included a roaring lion walking by his tent one night, crossing crocodile-filled rivers in a dugout log and when one interpreter said he would kill him if he even accidentally said anything derogatory about the Quran or Muhammad.
One of the most memorable experiences happened when Miglavs asked the elders of a remote tribe in Ethiopia what advice they would give world leaders. These tribal members were remote and many Westerners would even call them primitive. After a long silence, one elder finally said, “Tell them that we are all created by God. No matter what your tribe, no matter what your religion, we all bleed the same color blood.” Then he raised his hand, with his fingers outstretched, to conclude, “We all have five fingers.”
In this age of anxiety and fear of the other, fear of the other’s tribe, ethnicity, political group or religion, Miglavs’ gallery show was totally inspired by that Konso elder’s insightful words: “We all have five fingers.” Miglavs hopes the exhibit will inspire viewers to examine their own beliefs from a different perspective—from the perspective of the Birthplace of Modern Humans. ABOUT THE ARTIST Jānis Miglavs was lucky to have been born. When the Communists invaded Latvia during World War 2, they wanted to kill his father because he owned land. Fortunately, his father escaped and fled with his wife—Jānis’ mom. Jānis was born in a displaced person’s camp.
Eventually, Jānis and his family immigrated to the United States, where he learned English starting the first day of school. After becoming a US citizen, he graduated with a bachelor’s degree from the UC Berkeley, and a Master’s degree in Fine Arts from California State University at Sacramento.
He taught high school art and photography for 10 years, then spent a year teaching special education teachers all while doing wedding photography every weekend and most nights. After he got married, his wife, Eddi, put her foot down. Choose one career. After a beer or two, he chose photography.
He started in the editorial world working with local newspapers and magazines like National Geographic, Outdoor Photographer and Travel and Leisure. When he had two young boys, he quit traveling to become an advertising and commercial photographer.
Along the way, he wrote, photographed and created videos for a long list of winery clients and publications like Wine Spectator, Wine Enthusiast, Sommelier Journal, Oregon Wine Press, Outdoor Photographer and a variety of travel magazines. He wrote and photographed three wine-related books, which won numerous awards, including Gold medals and Best in the World.
In addition to this tasty winery work, in 1999 Jānis started a major personal project in the Birthplace of Modern Humans. For this he traveled to and interviewed the elders, shamans, witchdoctors, storytellers, and chiefs of Africa’s most remote tribes about their myths and archetypal dreams. For all but one of the tribes, he is the only person to have ever documented their oral stories—from which he creates interpretive photographic illustrations of the stories he heard.
While the illustration work has been displayed on a limited basis, including at the United Nations headquarters, Jānis feels the time is right to get the work and message he learned in Africa out.