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“And all the roads we have to walk are winding
And all the lights that lead us there are blinding
There are many things that I
Would like to say to you but I don’t know how”
Lyrics from “Wonderwall” by Oasis
To put it mildly, these are confusing and troubling times. In pictures worth thousands of words, photographers today are expressing their angst and dreams in ways that enlighten, engage, enrage and calm us. Their visions speak to us in ways that words cannot. This past weekend, I had the great fortune to view the work of talented emerging photographers at the FlashPoint Boston Photography Festival portfolio review and portfolio walk. From the intimately personal to the highly political, all the most powerful photography was in some way metaphoric and universal. Of course, I couldn’t see everything, but I’d like to share some of the photographs that I found so memorable that they are still floating through my mind.
JP Terlizzi makes the universal themes of identity and relationships intensely personal through his narratives exploring personal loss and detachment. Photographs from his series The Cedars Run Silent are elegantly composed, dramatically lit and emotionally enigmatic, combining powerfully simple graphics and an evocative, moody palette to create contemplative images that nestle into the subconscious. In a stylistic departure with similar themes, Terlizzi’s newest series and accompanying handmade book Bloodline ponders personal history with an artful layering of vintage photographs and actual slides of blood literally sewn together with thread that references Terlizzi’s sartorial ancestry. Delving into the family treasure chest with a completely different viewpoint, Jackie Heitchue’s series What I Know So Far is as emotionally stirring as it is visually eloquent. Heitchue photographs her children and even the family dog with the formality of a Renaissance painting, introducing elements of bucolic paintings, handmade embroidery and ornate picture frames into serene compositions with the understated drama of an unfolding story. Heitchue’s stokes her quiet scenarios with contrasts – formal versus familiar, mundane versus beautiful, real versus fantasy – that create powerful visual and emotional tension.
Michel Rajkovic’s minimalist monochromatic landscapes are serene and symbolic, transporting viewers to tranquil, spare and ambiguous surroundings in his dreamy photographs. His airy compositions and delicate palette coax viewers into a gentle journey of searching that has a paradoxically strong sense of escapism.
Evy Huppert’s B&W photographs possess a lovely compositional spaciousness and metaphorical ambiguity, wavering between running away and coming home, that invites viewers to supply their own personal mythology. Leslie Jean-Bart isolates the silhouettes and shadows of beachgoers at the surf’s edge, using the turbulent tide to create a metaphor for immigrants trapped between two cultures, their potential often going unrecognized. His shimmering color photographs and a new B&W series that uses both photography and the printing press suggest the shadowy shapes of subjects striving for realization.
Another artist questioning the relationship of imagination and reality is Shawn Bush, whose series A Golden State depicts places and people throughout California in bright, staring, color photographs that challenge our glamorized perceptions with a subtle, often ironic touch. Dawn Watson’s photographs and handmade artist book from her project Witness celebrate the natural world. From photographs of forests bathed in softly caressing light, Watson crafts a disjointed, dreamy walk through the woods, at once amplifying the beauty and fragility of a habitat coming under increasing threat.
In his series Bosque Magico de la Habana, Conrad Gees explores the mysteries of a forest winding along a river in the barrio of Havana. His vignetted, warm toned B&W photographs infer an ancient and magical state in images of overgrown, decayed beauty, an allegory for Cuban culture. A sense of wonder and mystery imbue the photographic series Silk Portals, Donna Tramontozzi’s images of intricate spider webs, abstractly envisioned in darkness, wind and rain.
Jim Nickelson brings the art of abstraction into a new dimension in his latest celestial series Harmony of the Spheres, with images that are at once precise and lyrical from Prelude, Ouroboros and his new use of cyanotypes in Euclidean Sonata. At the other end of the expressive spectrum, I saw several notable portfolios with moving representational work. Judy Brown hopes to engage viewers with a book featuring her beautifully lit and sympathetically composed images of local farm animals. In her series 21 Magnolia Rd., Kev Filmore combines family photographs and documents in unique compositions to infer the cruel history and painful legacy of growing up in an abusive home. In her series Immigrant Tins, Lisa Cohen traces a different treacherous path in her unique tintype photo transfers, layering her own ancestral family photographs with images and documents of immigration to escape Nazi Germany in WWII. The innocent pre-war faces of privileged children and families are poignantly juxtaposed with the rigors of their passage to America. In a lovely series of color panoramic photographs, Lee Kilpatrick investigates the intricate and intriguing interactions among groups of people in social gatherings – from back porches to restaurant tables – in an observant, sometimes lighthearted and revealing cultural commentary.
My heartfelt gratitude to the photographers who shared their work with me and to all those who bravely showed up to have their work reviewed. I hope you benefitted from and enjoyed the process as much as I did!
Feature Image: “The White Shirt” (Detail) from the series The Cedars Run Silent by JP Terlizzi (courtesy of the artist).