A Body of Work

As the “Other” gallery director of A Smith Gallery my daily life is awash in photography. Not only do I frame (many times more than thirty images) and hang sometimes up to three exhibitions in a month, we live in the back of the gallery – we are woven into photography, it sends us off to sleep and greets us in the morning.  Currently there is much talk and speculation about where photography is headed.  The phrase heard ‘round the photography world is “now with cell phones everyone is a photographer.”  It may be slightly derisive, however, it’s true?  One can argue until the cows come home about what constitutes a “photographer,” unfortunately for those with their minds made up – it is a very fluid and subjective thing.

It is my observation that photography currently, that is compelling and attention getting, is divided into three categories: experimental /conceptual, narrative/storytelling and one-off unique one-of-a kind images produced using alternative, analogue processes.  And, of course, a really good photograph of any subject, taken with whichever camera and well-presented will always get its due. I think choosing the path to becoming successful/contented is not unlike an art student pondering and experimenting with what will become their oeuvre: painting, sculpture, ceramics or drawing?

The reason I am writing this is because Amanda and I do ten to fifteen reviews per month with photographers on all levels.  For me it is a wonderful, immensely fulfilling and gratifying experience every time. We get to meet sincere, committed folks from all over the world.  We are very lucky.  Over the course of the reviews, we many times get asked about the direction a photographer should go or to comment on the totality of their entries.  This can become a difficult moment. Not because their images are not good or well done but because they technically or expositionally are not kin.   Naturally, because of the calls being based on a one word theme it can be hard to pull together images from a single body of work.

As a gallerist, an artist — a painter as well as a photographer, I come from a world that values and encourages “bodies of work.”  From my experiences in school as well as with other working artists, many people chafe and rebel against the idea of constraining oneself to working within the “limitations” of a body of work. I had many reasons for resenting the suggestion that I explore a cohesive body of work, the least not being my ADD – what fun could that possibly be?

Focusing on one subject, one technique, one manner of portraying what you are seeing gives one the ability and freedom to explore and go deeper into the soul of the work.  It opens the door and allows empathy to walk on in.  It is my opinion that most compelling art is made when the artist has empathy for their subject.  It allows for some sort of, hard to explain, reciprocal thing to happen – the artist is giving something to the work and the work is giving it back.

So, my two cents, for what it’s worth, is if you are a beginning or journeyman photographer and you are not satisfied with where you are in your journey or are not sure which direction to go — pick something and explore it.  It does not have to be a particular subject.  It can be a technique.  Think about what moves you: gives you goosebumps, pisses you off, excites you, saddens you, touches you.  From my experience you don’t know if you are compatible with or connected to a way until you take it out on a date.*

Kevin Tully

*I have to give credit to Dr. Keith Kesler for the “take it out on a date” phrase.


“forgotten” juried by Blue Mitchell

The “forgotten” exhibition juried by Blue Mitchell, was in the Main gallery from August 24 to September 30, 2018.  Blue selected fifty four images from fifty four artist.  Jelisa Peterson’s “Haunting” received the Juror’s Award.  Michael Weitzman’s image “Silent Witness” received the Director’s Award.  Juror’s Honorable Mentions were given to Susan de Witt’s “Hollow Memories #2”, Nancy Goodrich’s “Begging Bowl” and Steven T Smith’s “Lost in Thought, Frankfurt Zoo”.  Director’s Honorable Mentions were given to Ray Bidegain’s “Circle”, Melody Locke’s “20th Century Pastime”, Christopher Priebe’s “Offering” and Josh Raftery’s “Memento Mori”.

The Photographic Performance 2018 / Deborah Sfez

This is the fourth in a series of blog posts, conversations, focusing on the many entries we received for our call “The Photographic Performance 2018”.  Deborah Sfez’s exhibition “The Mummies from Dresden” was in the gallery from August 3 to September 2, 2018.

“Photography, for me, means a creative research. It is a tool in the process of creating an image. I believe that the strongest and quickest way to communicate an idea is through an Image. This year I found in Dresden (Germany) a small Album with very small pictures of a German family during the years of World War II 1930-1948. I photographed them again digitally and covered all the faces with handmade red embroidery to make them anonymous and look like Mummies. There are no evidences of any war in the pictures, no soldiers, no signs of destruction, only peaceful photos of a traditional German family of those years, except one picture of 1947 showing a couple on their wedding day sitting on a bench while behind them we notice two buildings: on the right a building in good shape and on the left a completely destroyed one and this is the location they have chosen for their wedding photo to show to their children.

I have decided to give these little photos a new life and shoot them again with a digital camera, enlarge them and cover all the faces with red embroidery, first technically to cover their identity, make them unrecognizable and anonymous, by erasing their identity they become like marionettes all alike and we can concentrate on their body attitude and the way they are dressed up, their posture and the fashionable looks of their time. These members of one family become like corps with no faces like Mummies of an ancient time. In ancient Egypt they believed that when a person died it was the beginning of a long journey for her, therefore they believed the body should be preserved, wrapped up in many layers of resin coated linen cloth to keep the moist away and prevent the body from decomposing after death.

I certainly think that photography is a living evidence of its dead subjects. Therefore by “injecting” red thread into the photography paper I add a material that, like for the Mummies, preserve the photography, as a living material piece of an artistic document, that starts a journey in the eye of the viewer and goes beyond the photography and deals with the essence of the media itself. Now we have a series of unknown existences in a known historical period that lead me to asking myself many questions like: what is a Family Album? What is photography? What is the role of photography as a historical document? Can we trust it? What do people choose to show in their albums and what do they choose to omit? These are hard, disturbing questions dealing with truth, honesty, education to the next generation, memory and truthful history narrating.”

Deborah Sfez, 2017

“street” juried by Harvey Stein

The “street” exhibition juried by Harvey Stein, was in the Main gallery from July 6 to August 19, 2018.  Harvey selected fifty four images from forty nine artist.  Robert Moore’s “Faith Series No. 4” received the Juror’s Award.  Marsha Mahoney’s image “Paris Rain” received the Director’s Award.  Juror’s Honorable Mentions were given to Geoffrey Agrons’ “They Wrangle Through the Night”, David Dennard’s “Entering the Temple, Tibet, 2013” and Kip Harris’ “Smoke Break, NYC”.  Director’s Honorable Mentions were given to Leigh Oviatt’s “The Procession”, Louise Pedno’s “The Market” and Terry Wild’s “Bus Stop 1968”.

“still life” juried by Kate Breakey

The “still life” exhibition juried by Kate Breakey, was in the Main gallery from May 18 to July 1, 2018.  Kate selected fifty five images from fifty one artist.  Susan Fenton’s “Untitled (WOOD) 3” received the Juror’s Award.  Ashton Thornhill’s image “Floating Still Life #1” received the Director’s Award.  Juror’s Honorable Mentions were given to Geoffrey Agrons’ “Elixirs”, Evy Cohen’s “Fragments (2)” and Charlotte Watts’ image “Perhaps It Is Not Dark Inside After All”.  Director’s Honorable Mentions were given to Patricia Dudley’s “Untitled from the series DELIGHTful”, Jimmy Salmon’s “Lemon Curls” and JP Terlizzi’s image”Orange Swirl”.

The Photographic Performance 2018 / PhotoSynthesis


This is the second in a series of blog posts, conversations, focusing on the many entries we received for our call “The Photographic Performance 2018”.  The “PhotoSynthesis” exhibition juried by Kevin Tully and Amanda Smith, was in the Salon gallery from May 25 to June 24, 2018.  Participating artist in the exhibition were Jeri Eisenberg, Sherrie Posternak, Janise Yntema, Lia Rothstein, Michelle Robinson, Wayne Montecalvo and Fran Forman.

“The Oxford English Dictionary defines art as “the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination…producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power.” The most accomplished artists have the experience and intuition to utilize the medium that most successfully contributes to the ideas they are trying to put forth in their work.

Artists must ask themselves if their preferred medium is the best path to expressing their vision. Sometimes, a combination of mediums can have a profound result that could not have been accomplished any other way. Synergy, when one plus one equals more than two, can happen when artists work with the mediums of photography plus encaustic. They take advantage of the inherent characteristics of each, but bring their work to a higher level. The viewer may have a difficult time distinguishing where the image produced by the camera ends and the strokes of wax begin, or whether one is looking at a  “real” or altered reality that represents a synergism of image and encaustic.

Applying wax to a photograph can exponentially extend the meaning of an image. The texture of the surface and the invitingly sensuous and tactile sheen of the waxes add to the visual and emotional impact of the underlying handmade photographic work.  What is revealed or concealed, contextualized or isolated and emphasized or obscured, as well as the ambiguity of foreground vs. background; all are called into play when wax, resin, pigments and other materials are used with photography.

The artists selected for this exhibition display technical mastery in both encaustic and photography and employ both mediums to their maximum expressive capabilities. They also demonstrate a wide variety of techniques and accomplish their artistic goals by utilizing luminescence, texture, translucency, opacity, color and composition effectively.”

“portraits” juried by Alyssa Coppelman

The “portraits” exhibition juried by Alyssa Coppelman, was in the Main gallery from March 30 to May 13, 2018.  Alyssae selected fifty five images from fifty one artist.  Lisa Krantz’s “Rowan Rests” received the Juror’s Award.  Dale Niles’ image “Aunt Willie’s Nursing Cap” received the Director’s Award.  Juror’s Honorable Mentions were given to Anthony Marchetti’s “Untitled (Paul)”, Christopher Priebe’s “Marcella Takes a Look” and Sandra Chen Weinstein “Into the Blue”.  Director’s Honorable Mentions were given to Jim Dratfield’s “On The Town”, Katherine Hershey’s “Garden Statue”, David Morel’s “English Lady and Her Dogs” and Project Barbatype’s “Angela Webb, World Champion Whiskerina Realistic  Moustache, 2017”.


The Photographic Performance 2018 / Marilyn Maxwell

This is the first in a series of blog posts, conversations, focusing on the many entries we received for our call “The Photographic Performance 2018”.  Marilyn Maxwell’s exhibition “At Risk” was in the gallery from April 20 to May 20, 2018.

“At Risk” is about vanishing species.  With this collection of images, I want to advance the idea of enlightened human stewardship of African species at risk of extinction.  These photographs not only celebrate the beauty and power of Earth’s great land animals, but are also meant to call attention to their plight.  They are at our mercy. My fear is that these images may depict the last decade these creatures walk the earth before Man eradicates them through poaching and habitat destruction. This portfolio follows in the tradition of Sebastiao Salgado’s Vanishing Cultures and Nick Brandt’s dark vision of African wildlife’s future. – Marilyn Maxwell

“Being Set Free” exhibition juried by Karen Divine, Melanie Walker, Amanda Smith, Diana Perkins and Kevin Tully

The “Being Set Free” exhibition juried by Karen Divine, Melanie Walker, Amanda Smith, Diana Perkins and Kevin Tully, was in the Salon gallery from February 23 to April 15, 2018.  Thirty three images from twenty four artist were selected for the exhibition.  Dorothy Kloss’ “Longing for Someone to Get It”, “Monsters Don’t Sleep Under Your Bed, They Scream Inside Your Head” and “Outside and Out of Touch  received the Juror’s Selection Award.  Eduardo Fujii’s “Uncertain Destiny” received the Director’s Selection Award.

The Photographic Performance 2017/Jim Riche

This is the sixth in a series of blog posts, conversations, focusing on the many entries we received for our call “The Photographic Performance 2017” that were not chosen for exhibition in the gallery, yet we feel demand an audience.

Jim has worked in the film industry for many years.  He has a cinematographers eye.  He looks at his subject like David Lean or Stanley Kubrick, who was also a photographer.  The decay and rugged, salt impregnated visions of the environs around the Salton Sea are framed not unlike Lawrence heading out into the majestic, yet also vertiginous desert or Spartacus leading gladiators across the wide Italian plain towards Rome.


How did you come to photography?

I got a BFA in Photography as a Fine Art from RIT many years ago. During those years I interned for Pete Turner one summer and was totally immersed in the darkroom creating different techniques of developing Extachrome.  After a number of years in the business I ended up becoming a Director of Photography on a stop motion film.  From there I spent the next 25 years working in Visual Effects for films such as Tron, X-Men:First Class, Deadpool and many others as a VFX Supervisor and an Executive Producer. Now I find myself drawn back to photography as I wind down my film career.  I live in the Palm Springs area of California and the Mojave Desert and Salton Sea areas have a special appeal, a special beauty that you just need to find.

What drew you to do a series on the Salton Sea?

The Salton Sea was created by mistake back in 1905 when a dam broke and it filled with water for 2 years. In the 50s and 60s it became a resort on the water, cities were planned, marinas were built and hotels and resorts flourished.  There were yacht clubs, speed boat races, the stars came from palm springs to have fun in the beautiful water.  Communities built along the coast, Desert Shores , Salton city, Salton Sea Beach with its marina.  Then over on the east side of the lake were the North Shore Yacht Club and the resort town of Bombay Beach and Niland Marina. It has now been left to the elements and the few thousand people who still hang on to life on the edge of the sea.  Two hurricanes in the 70s ripped through the area devastating the communities.  Yet it is still a beautiful place in its own right.  It is a huge bird-way for 80% of the worlds white pelicans and 90% of the eared grebe.  It is a world with history and a beauty that deserves to be saved and to be seen by today’s generation and future generations.

What do you hope people will see in your work? 

I created this series so people can see what man has brought to the world and what nature is taking back.  The Salton Sea was a wonderland totally created by man, it didn’t exist until man made a mistake.  Nature has a way of correcting our mistakes yet the footprint of man will still remain.  It is a shame that we create things that should not have been there in the first place.  I hope people see the Salton Sea as a land that nature is trying to take back and something we need to make sure is taken care of properly.