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'Decolonizing Care' at Photoville Festival 2024

Event Date:

June 1 - 16, 2024 | 12:00 PM EDT


Photoville Festival
Brooklyn Bridge Park
1 Water St

Brooklyn, NY 11201

Clouds enshroud a green mountain, with a river at its base

Judith Surber—whose grandchild and children struggle with addiction—writes about her life on a...

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Multiple Authors
Decolonizing Care

As part of the annual Photoville Festival in New York City, the Pulitzer Center will be featuring the work of photographer Justin Maxon and writer Judith Surber in the exhibition of the Pulitzer Center-supported project, Decolonizing Care

Photoville is a free, outdoor event with exhibits in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, and Staten Island, beginning on June 1, 2024. Throughout the festival, there will be in-person and virtual storytelling events, artist talks, educational programming, and open-air exhibitions in parks and other New York public spaces. 

Learn more about the exhibit below, and visit this link to learn more about Photoville 2024.

“I wish I could turn the clock back to B.D., or ‘before drugs.’ Before the opioid epidemic spread through our tribe like wildfire. Before my husband became addicted. Then two of my sons. Then my grandchild.”

Judith Surber, a mother, Hoopa Valley Tribe member, and now manager of a medical assisted treatment program, writes of her experience with the opioid epidemic on the reservation. Justin Maxon uses film photography to present snapshots of Surber’s life while centering her voice throughout.

“When I think about my sons, Roger and Cory, I picture them as I do all my children, as precious babies. When I look at my sons, I see all that I’ve known them to be and all of what could have been or could still be if it weren’t for OxyContin, then heroin, and now fentanyl.”

Native populations experience some of the highest rates of drug overdose deaths in the U.S., according to the CDC.

“I had high hopes for my children and could not fathom what would happen to us when OxyContin came to the valley. The remoteness of this place has long protected us. But today the opioid crisis facing the nation has infiltrated our community, causing destruction and havoc along its path, leaving families like mine shattered.”

Surber gives a firsthand perspective of a mother fighting to keep her family together, while Maxon’s photographs are candid yet compassionate. Together, their written and visual storytelling weave a personal narrative of struggle, fear, and pain, but most of all, of unconditional love.

This story was originally published in partnership with The New York Times in November 2023.


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