One of the first things that might strike you on touring the PhotoZone Gallery’s 28th Annual Juried Show Exhibition, as I did on Friday, is the large number of black and white prints done in the Ansel Adams/Edward Weston classic landscape mode. In fact, I made a quick count. Of the 48 images still in the show — a couple have apparently been taken away by buyers — no fewer than 15 could easily pass for having been done in the early 20th century.
Photography, of course, isn’t the only artistic medium whose practitioners celebrate and replicate the past. Go to any community art center exhibition and you’ll find would-be Impressionists, Abstract Expressionists and Pop artists by the score. But photography seems to disproportionately attract people who are fond of long-established technique and vision to the exclusion of much else. Those 15 or so photos were, of course, well done, but generally lacked much acknowledgement of the fact that the calendar says 2016, not 1940.
That’s not to say there aren’t also some photos in this show with a contemporary vision. The best example, I thought, was — to my surprise, as I rarely agree with exhibition jurors — awarded Best of Show. That’s Lynn Dean’s striking color photo “Vietnam War Memorial.”
The photograph is so quietly excellent, that, to be honest, it took me a moment to grasp its subtle charms. The Washington Monument neatly divides the upper half of this vertical composition into two not-quite symmetrical sides. The color image is nearly all monochromatic, from the black polished rock of the face of Maya Lin’s much-photographed memorial to the pale gray sky above. But cut across all this gray is a sudden slash of green and yellow lawn. The effect is immensely appealing; the photograph stands nicely on its own without relying on the sentiment around a war memorial for its effect.
Another photo that caught my eye was a small study of two nudes by Paula Goodbar, who is, coincidentally, the executive director the Emerald Art Center. “Running Up That Hill” shows the torso and upper thighs of a couple, facing apart, bound together by a pink sash (and, perhaps, by their relationship). It’s a small, understated, and well done image.
Finally, Doug Martin’s “Rain Gutter Guards on Red Table” seems barely able to qualify as photography, at least at first glance, though I imagine the striking composition does. The image looks like a geometric array of 24 odd shellfish, but I’ll take the title’s word for it that no shellfish were harmed in the making. The picture is odd and appealing.
Finally, one more count. Digital has taken over even at PhotoZone. Of the 48 photos on the wall, 46 were made on digital cameras and printed as inkjet prints. One was scanned from a film slide and printed on an inkjet printer. And there is exactly one old-fashioned darkroom-vintage silver gelatin print made from a film image: Daniel Schlender’s “Silver City School.” The images in this show may not be entirely contemporary, but the medium certainly is.
The show runs through Friday, so you’ve got this week to go see it. More info here.