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There are those who argue that every photograph should stand on its own, but a portfolio is a beautiful thing. Not only does a series allow photographers to explore the complexities of their subject, but it provides the viewer with a context that enriches each image and imbues deeper meaning. With that in mind, Panopticon Gallery in Boston’s Kenmore Square has mounted its first annual juried portfolio exhibition, First Look, on view through February 27th, 2018. Visit and you’ll want to look again.
The portfolios selected by gallery director Kat Kiernan include five to seven photographs each by Melissa Breyer, Rebecca Clark, Richard Alan Cohen, Walter Crump, and Alyssa Salomon. On the one hand, these photographers could not be more different in both subject matter and approach, but I discovered a commonality that reflects something exceptional about both the photographers and juror. Let me show you what I mean.
Alyssa Salomon uses high-tech, night vision trail cameras to make low-resolution images of wildlife around her home in Richmond, Virginia in the series Animal Land. Shooting at night allows Salomon to approximate an undisturbed state of the natural world, harkening back to a more pristine landscape. Further suggesting an earlier era, Salomon prints her photographs on delicate handmade papers using the 19th century Van Dyke process that confers a warm brown tone to the images. Her multiple-process photographs become more than meets the eye, with an ethereal, mystical feel as fleeting as the earth’s nocturnal wanderers.
Walter Crump’s Machines Without A Purpose are at once whimsical and ominous. Constructed from the discarded skeletons of a bygone industrial age, Crump fashions towering salutes to the past and photographs them with one of the original photographic instruments, a pinhole camera. Printed in B&W with vintage-era vignetted edges, Crump’s contraptions are intricate and bold, satirical and sinister. They stand as tributes to the once indispensable relics from our past and teasingly hint at what might become of our currently beloved devices.
Rebecca Clark uses the art of photomontage to transform portions of historical paintings into photographic fantasies in her series Seductive Deceptions. Clark selects pieces of ancient artworks and crafts luminous prints utilizing textural materials like encaustic wax to lend a sense of aged familiarity to her work. Closer inspection dispels this myth, as Clark digitally recombines, distorts and composes her frames into colorfully fictional narratives that hint at a darker realm with clever innuendo. With seductively composed photographs that first appear to be historical paintings and imaginary scenes that at first seem genuine, Clark encourages the viewer’s own narratives.
In Melissa Breyer’s series True Stories, the street photographer supplies a split-second slice of urban life and the viewer furnishes the backstory. Breyer’s B&W photographs are enticingly dynamic, with tight framing, deep shadows and crackling contrast. She captures fleeting moments from striking vantage points, isolating subjects in her frame with clandestine intimacy, inviting us into a noir fantasy through her lens.
Richard Alan Cohen creates luminous photographic abstractions in his series Waterline. His close-up images of the waterlines painted along the hulls of dry docked boats suggest minimalist paintings with their marked longitudinal color fields. But soon enough, they transform before our eyes into vibrant, textured landscapes. The boat’s waterline becomes a coast, the textured hull forms a weather front and barnacles leave trails of stars as we recall a stormy sunset, a city glowing at dusk, a snowy mountain range. Cohen’s nuanced photographs allow viewers to appreciate the colorful past of a veteran boat hull while stirring the storied past of our own memories.
In First Look, Panopticon Gallery has gathered the imaginative portfolios of five diverse photographers, a rare treat that places the work in a more meaningful framework than a collection of single photographs. But the real enticement of this exhibit is the selection of artists whose photographs resonate on multiple levels and make us want to look again.
For more information about this exhibit, go to: https://www.panopticongallery.com/first-look-2018/
Feature Image: “Distracted Revelations, 2016” (Detail) from the series Seductive Deceptions by Rebecca Clark (courtesy of the artist and Panopticon Gallery, Boston).