The artist Jason Lazarus collects and displays photographs deemed “too hard to keep.” This essay contrasts Lazarus’s exhibitions with Dawoud Bey’s Birmingham Project, which commemorates the 1963 bombing of a Baptist Church in Alabama by exhibiting photographs of present-day residents of Birmingham. What contributions do these photo projects make as responses to loss? Despite their differences, both exhibitions build miraculous connections between strangers through powerful exercises in imagination. In the end, Too Hard to Keep and the Birmingham Project represent experiments in memorial aesthetics that occupy the productive tension between empathy and critical detachment.

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