"Mortal", a retrospective exhibit, was held at the Pamela Salisbury Gallery in Hudson, New York from September 4 through October 4, 2020, in the gallery's spectacular 1910 carriage house. "Mortal" (https://pamelasalisburygallery.com/exhibition/robert-palumbo/) included over 50 works across three floors, organized as a loosely chronological 20-year narrative. Since being diagnosed with multiple myeloma in 2018, I’ve faced a daily existential reckoning: How much time is left? What should I do with the time that remains? "Mortal" considers mortality through the lens of five bodies of my work:
•LOST VEGAS. Shot in Vegas between 1990 and 2002, featuring the denizens of "the most American city," fighting to make it on and off the Strip. Showgirls,boxers, porn stars, and an uncanny Elvis Impersonator who lived as the dead King. Iconic of Vegas and of America.
•BALTIMORE HOMICIDE. Shot while embedded within the Baltimore Homicide Unit for the New York Times as they investigated murders in the fall of 2000. Detectives, murder witnesses, interrogations, a precursor of "The Wire".
•9/11. Photographs taken on and just after 9/11/01 in Lower Manhattan, where I lived. I was enveloped in toxic dust that day, a probable cause of my cancer.
•RWANDA GACACA. Portraits and reportage at the gacaca (meeting in the grass) public genocide hearings in Rwanda in 2003, in which the families of the victims of the 1994 genocide confronted the genocidaires who murdered their loved ones. If the genocidaires admitted their guilt and apologized, they were set free in a grand experiment of reconciliation and forgiveness.
•GLACIERS VS. CARBON. The earth itself is a mortal being and is crisis. Nowhere is that more evident than in the glaciers that serve as levees of ice against the rising temperatures that threaten their, and by proxy, our existence. I photographed the carbon-scarred glaciers of Alaska, capturing the pollution-caused damage that appears like scar tissue on a human body.