It’s Friday morning at the Witte Museum and hundreds of school children rush to see a new dinosaur exhibit.
But in quiet wing upstairs, photographer Michael Nye’s exhibit Table of Contents: Portraits and Stories of Hunger and Resilience is getting attention. Fifty large black and white portraits hang on royal blue walls. Headphones dangle under each photograph and at the push of a button, patrons like Marco Islas can hear these stories of hunger.
“The pictures are what stood out to me. Without even listening to the stories, you can just see the harsh reality that some people face,” Islas said. “But I think after listening to some of these stories, also they show the resiliency of the human spirit.”
Nye began in San Antonio and traveled across the country for over four years collecting these stories, asking strangers the question, “Have you been affected by hunger and can you spend three days with me?”
Nye’s conversations with those affected by hunger could last up to six hours. And after photographing each person, he edited the conversation into a 5-minute narrative paired with their image.
“My focus is a fidelity to each person's experience,” Nye said. “What do they want to say? What did hunger do to them? What do they know?”
During his journey, Nye met Rick in Little Rock, Arkansas. Rick, now middle-aged and homeless, was abandoned by his alcoholic mother at a young age and struggled with the impacts of hunger throughout his life.
“Hunger is not missing a meal. Hunger is when you go to bed hungry and you're hungry all the next day and then you go to bed hungry again. And all you think about is food,” Rick said.
The exhibit sheds light on hunger in the context of a larger life and catalogs diverse personal experiences. Some tell of temporary hunger while others recall lifetimes spent struggling to survive.
“But I think there is a commonality of stories. Although each story is different, each story could be in each of our communities. Anyone could be hungry,” Nye said.
Michael Nye's exhibit Table of Contents is at Witte Museum through Sunday, April 4th.