The World Needs a Superhero by Diana Cheren Nygren

This series envisions young children as contemporary society's superheroes. Superheroes have long occupied a central position in American popular culture. Society turns to superhero narratives in times of unrest as a source of hope.

This series envisions young children as contemporary society’s superheroes. Superheroes have long occupied a central position in American popular culture.

Society turns to superhero narratives in times of unrest as a source of hope. In the superhero narrative, right and wrong are clearly defined, and right will ultimately triumph. From generation to generation, the qualities those heroes embody have changed to reflect the best type of leader believed to confront the challenges of the moment.  In this critical moment, with crises seeming to close in from every side, it can be hard to imagine any combination of qualities adequate to the task.

Children’s tendency to play superhero has a slightly different significance. They imagine themselves as safe, strong, and in control.  The more out of control reality, the more intense the need to believe that control is possible. I have watched my own children grow from childhood innocence into jaded young adulthood. I both miss their youthful embrace of the world, and admire the determination with which they now try to change it.

In this work, I transform images of my children when they were younger into superheroes. I have placed them in landscapes that foreshadow a desolate urban future.  I have given them brightly colored capes, a celebration of the beauty of the confidence with which, unfazed by the desolation around them, they believe that anything is possible. For many adults, the world now feels out of control to a degree we have never experienced before.  This work explores the idea that children, with their ability to continue to hope and dream, to use their imaginations to embrace the world and possibility, are the superheroes society needs to grapple with the challenges in front of us. But it also depicts a mother’s concern for her children.  There is an underlying impotence to their efforts to play at power.  In their vulnerability and helplessness, they embody the anxiety of a society on the brink, struggling to believe in the future, unable to confront true accountability for its actions.

About Diana Cheren Nygren

Diana Cheren Nygren is a photography based artist from Boston, Massachusetts. Her work explores the relationship of people to their physical environment and landscape as a setting for human activity. Her photographs address serious social questions through a blend of documentary practice, invention, and humor.

Diana was trained as an art historian with a focus on modern and contemporary art, and the relationship of artistic production to its socio-political context.  Her emphasis on careful composition in her photographic work, as well as her subject matter, reflects this training. Her work as a photographer is the culmination of a life-long investment in the power of art and visual culture to shape and influence social change.

Her work has been shown and published widely, and has won numerous awards. Her project When the Trees are Gone has been featured in Dek Unu Mag, Square Magazine, Photonews, Domus Magazine online, Cities Magazine, and iLeGaLiT, and won Discovery of the Year in the 2020 Tokyo International Foto Awards, 2nd place in Fine Art/Collage in the 2020 International Photo Awards, bronze in Fine Art/Digitally Enhanced in the 2020 Prix de la Photographie, and was a finalist for Fresh2020, Urban2020, the Hopper Prize, and OpenImage Barcelona, and a Merit Winner in the 2020 Rfotofolio Selections. The project The Persistence of Family has been shown across the globe as far away as China, was awarded a Lensculture Critic’s Choice Award, Best New Talent win the 2021 Prix de la Photographie, Best of Shoot in the 2021 London International Creative Competition, 2nd place in the International Photo Awards and the Budapest International Foto Awards, was longlisted for the Aesthetica Art Prize and shortlisted for the Athens Photo Festival and Belfast Photo Festival, and has been featured in a number of publications including a recent review in Gente di Fotografia. [Official Website]

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