Pleasure of Their Company
PhotoAlliance founders explore collective creativity in Carmel show.
Thursday, March 18, 2004
As part of a long and important tradition in the history of California photography, the PhotoAlliance follows in the footsteps of Group F.64 and the Friends of Photography. It is the latest incarnation of like-minded Northern California photographers joining together to further art appreciation and creative and professional opportunities.
The group was founded in the spring of 2002 in part to fill the void felt by the demise of the Friends of Photography, which had its original home in Carmel before moving to San Francisco in the mid-’90s. “The PhotoAlliance picked up the torch and spirit of the Friends of Photography to show what can be accomplished with a photo organization to strengthen the arts as a whole in the Bay Area,” says PhotoAlliance advisory board member and exhibit guest curator Doreen Schmid, who points to the value placed on the kind of collective creativity that emerges from a group like PhotoAlliance.
“There is a cooperative spirit that has something to do with the fact that these photographers choose to reside in an area that fosters these connections in creative community,” notes Schmid.
Schmid has selected an engaging and enjoyable mix of images for the Frames of Reference show. The 13 participating photographers, all of whom are PhotoAlliance founders, share a refreshingly unstudied and easygoing creativity in their range of technique and subject matter. They exhibit no interest in innovation for its own sake, no self-conscious clammering for attention through technical trickery. Instead all display a confident manner, working in a broad range of styles and approaches focused solely on vision and the fun of image making.
“The approach and attitude inherent in the works are more telling than the actual subjects,” observes Schmid of her selections. “The works explore the small, intimate, and foreign but familiar expressions of what our humane connections are to these other worlds that unify the work.
In terms of style, technique and subject matter, Frames of Reference is equally divided between landscape, still life and portraiture, with an equal number of photographers working in color versus black and white. Where the black-and-white work tends toward a more documentary and formal approach, the color work is more painterly and expressionistic.
There is a jarring contrast between the beauty and shared color lyricism of Debra Bloomfield’s over-sized seascapes, with their fields of sea and sky awash in broad palettes of color woven by the modulating light, and David Maisel’s “Black Maps Project,” a series of high aerial landscape views whose initital beauty gives way to the horrible discovery that what appear to be gorgeous patterns of natural color are actually areas of toxic chemical pollution, a despoliation that looks like a biopsy of cancerous lung tissue.
Bill Scharf makes clever, playful use of color in his large soft-focus pictures of everyday objects and scenes. Where the mind grasps to render what it sees into recognizable form, the eye itself sees large amorphous shapes in morphologically indistinct colors done in a kind of reverse pointillism.
Leanne Hitchcock’s multi-panel suite of color prints, “The Apostles,” uses stark cool colors: the red of sacramental wine, black of a priest’s cassock, and the white of the Host to ponder the art and iconography in rituals of faith.
Private dramas filled with psychological tension fuel the dynamics of the black-and-white pictures by Laura Sackett and William Carter. Sackett’s large prints are powerfully effective in the way they take intimate, personal views and blow them up to massive size. Sackett adopts a child’s view of the world in finding both innocence and dark wisdom in pictures of dead goldfish floating in a toilet bowl, and a young girl embracing a dead bird in the crook of her folded arm.
There is a lot of tension and embracing in William Carter’s nude couples grappling in poses that are more athletic than erotic. Carter finds his subjects wrestling as much with issues of dominance and submission as with their physical bodies.
Following a more traditional, craftsman-like approach to photography are Jane Baldwin’s pictures of winged insects rendered as elegant jewel-like creations; Vicki Topaz’s series on pigeon houses redolent with old-world European moodiness, and Linda Connor’s classical-looking, gold-toned silver chloride prints of the Himalayas. Equally classic are Robert Dawson’s landscapes, a continuation of his important record of the modern settling of California and the West. Dawson brings a wryly observant eye to his views of the human imprint on the landscape as the vanity of manmade structures are dwarfed by the enduring legacy of the land itself, however threatened or under siege.
Strong documentary work is on display in Steven Brock’s portraits of native Peruvians and Norma Quintana’s portraits of Central American circus performers.
CPA Executive Director Dennis High says his organization was happy to
extend an invitation to the PhotoAlliance, a sister organization in the
support of creative photography in Northern California.” The
photographers of the PhotoAlliance are doing interesting work,” says
High. “They wanted a space to show work and we thought they needed the
visibility, so we made
The PhotoAlliance (www.photoalliance.org) has launched an ambitious series of well-attended lectures, workshops and programs on a host of photographic subjects ranging from technical seminars and portfolio reviews, to slide shows and talks on photo collecting. Beyond trying to broaden the appreciation for art photography, Schmid says the PhotoAlliance is equally committed to providing creative and professional opportunities for younger photographers, to remove the sense of isolation artists often feel and to nurture the creative talents of a new generation of California photographers.
“We’re trying to expose emerging artists to a new audience, to build a bridge between the photographic community and different segments of the Bay Area art world, including collectors,” says Schmid. “It goes well beyond gallery walls.”
Frames of Reference continues at the Center for Photographic Art through April 23. 625-5181.