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VASA Film Series


Following the Box

Film by Alan Teller and Jerri Zbiral

Almost seventy years ago, towards the end of World War II, a U.S. soldier stationed in rural West Bengal grabbed his Speed Graphic 4x5” press camera, hopped into a jeep and went off into the countryside to photograph. Who was he? Why did he leave his airbase to do that? We have no idea. What we do know is that he created remarkable images—sensitive portraits of villagers, respectful views of temples, documents of everyday life, a few military scenes. And how did a shoebox full of his beautiful negatives and prints made in India in 1945 end up at an estate sale in suburban Chicago? 

Following the Box, initially funded through a Fulbright award,is a mystery story, explored through an art exhibit and a documentary film. The film features interviews with twelve contemporary artists, 10 Indian and two American, who created work specifically inspired by this chance purchase of old photographs half a world away. Their artistic response will be seen in a new exhibit, opening this February in Kolkata, then traveling throughout India and the U.S. The exhibit and film illustrate the point that photographs are both windows to another time and place and mirrors of ourselves and our culture. It is a fascinating cross-cultural exploration, a celebration of the power of art—a visual dialogue between Americans and Indians over time.

* VASA thanks theAlan Teller and Jerri Zbiral for permission to screen this film .

time: 37:57 min/sec.
Videos may go full screen.

JERRI ZBIRAL was born in Prague, Czechoslovakia. She received a Master of Fine Arts degree in photography from the Visual Studies Workshop in Rochester, New York. Jerri founded and directed community photography programs for the Public Art Workshop and the Community Arts Center of the Uptown Hull House in Chicago. There, she worked as arts administrator, teacher, and director of a special photography program for the hearing impaired. With Alan Teller, she is a partner in The Collected Image, exhibiting vintage and contemporary photography and appraising photographic collections.  Jerri has received numerous grants for her own photography and to fund community programs. She has directed and produced the award winning and internationally screened documentary films ‘Never Turning Back, The World of Peggy Lipschutz’ and with Alan Teller, ‘In the Shadow of Memory: The Legacy of Lidice.’ She is co-Director of the Fulbright-Nehru funded project ‘Following the Box’. 

ALAN TELLER received post-graduate training in anthropology and photography at Indiana University, which led him to create the Inner-City Photo Workshop, a Chicago center for high-school dropouts. Alan has published numerous articles as well as the guidebook ‘Photography in the Classroom.’ He was photographic researcher for the Field Museum of Natural History, where he also taught classes on photography and anthropology.

With Jerri Zbiral, he produced the award winning documentary ‘In the Shadow of Memory, The Legacy of Lidice.’ He has exhibited his own photography since the 1970s.  Alan has received many grants including a 2013 Fulbright-Nehru Senior Scholar Award for ‘Following the Box,’ co-produced with Jerri.

The VASA film/video series is designed to prsent the work of emerging and established film/video artist.
Previous series may be accessed through the menu on the main VASA navigation page.



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