Mateer’s photos bring back memories of Peace Corps work

Published 12:00 am Saturday, October 5, 2002

When Bill Mateer served in the Peace Corps in Ethiopia in 1971-72, he made a personal project of taking photos of all the 120-some people in the village.

For nearly 30 years, the negatives and contact sheets sat in the attic of his rural Sheffield, Iowa, home. Finally, he decided to make enlargements of his favorites. The result is a show at the Albert Lea Art Center during the month of October.

&uot;It brought back a lot of memories, but it also raised a lot of questions,&uot; Mateer said of &uot;rediscovering&uot; his photographs.

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Mateer worked with women in the village who were potters. &uot;I worked with them to help them improve their situation and make their pots more salable,&uot; he said.

His wife, meanwhile, worked in a rehabilitation center for orphans.

Mateer said the neatest thing about his photos is that they were taken before the droughts and before the military occupation.

&uot;I tried to bring out the pride and the beauty of the people,&uot; he said. &uot;I have never regretted having done it (the Peace Corps experience).

The people of the village were Jewish and had been for centuries, but they were the minority.

&uot;These people were discriminated against,&uot; Mateer said. &uot;Those who are still alive are probably in Israel.&uot;

Mateer has about 30 images in his exhibit, which runs through Oct. 26 at the Art Center. An open house will be held from 2-4 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 13. The artist will be present to meet visitors and answer questions. This is the first time he has exhibited at the Art Center.

Mateer farms and teaches ceramics at North Iowa Area Community College, something he’s done for 16 years. He also does pottery in his home.