Kala Herh Develops Her Own Photojournalism Exhibit

By Jessica Garlasco
Volume 68, Issue II

As the nights get longer and homework piles on, the summer feels like a distant hazy glow for most students. For senior Kala Herh, however, summer vacation only started a larger story that comes to a head this October. For the past two summers, Herh has worked in Moab, Utah, as a waitress and laundry helper alongside her family who lives there. She met the local people and heard about their experiences far removed from the contained experiences of Briarcliff. One woman’s story who affected her the most is a Native American woman, Helena. “One summer I really connected with this one woman named Helena who has been working in laundry for ten years,” Herh said. “It was really cool how many interesting conversations we had in that [laundry] room. She shared stories of her greatest joys and challenges. One day, she shared a story of her father’s death. Her father and hundreds of other mine workers died in the VCA mines in Arizona, mines that were later deemed by the EPA as ones that have a “legacy for shoddy mining practices and federal neglect.” The workers, many of them Navajos, unsuspectedly drank the contaminated water and inhaled the radioactive dust. As a result, many of them died after being infected with cancer and other deadly diseases.”

Kala was so profoundly impacted by Helena’s story that she decided to take action.

“I came to the realization that the labor market is stratified, by race, with whites seeing higher wages, while minorities cluster lower paying jobs,” she said. “I wanted to shine light on this issue that affected many other families like Helena’s in any way that I could. For the next few weeks, I followed Helena and her family, documenting their everyday activities. After I returned to New York, I worked to develop the photos into a real photojournalist exhibition from which all the proceeds would be donated to the Native American Aid Association (NAA).” The NAA seeks to aid Native Americans in reservations across the United States with obstacles such as poverty; limited access to healthcare; and lack of central heat, running water and food. Kala’s exhibition will be on display in East Williamsburg in late October. “The result is something that I’m really proud of,” said Herh. “I want art to be a way of creating effective change in society, a medium in which anyone can enact change.”

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