Next time you are feeling a bit overwhelmed with Instagram photos on your Facebook news feed (presumably you even engaged in that forum), consider how its only been in recent decades that photography has been given the kind of critical attention other art forms have favored.
An intriguing photography show at the Hardcastle Gallery in Greenville, Del. ? its size and scope will knock your lens cap off ? is a must-see exhibit if you need an attitude adjustment.
Represented are six area photographers: Steve Boyden, Jim Graham, Michael Kahn, Sam Krisch, David Nibouar, and Alessandra Manzotti.
According to Graham, who curated the show after having several extremely successful solos at the gallery, the exhibit’s title Close To Edge refers to the predominance of seascapes and images suggesting transitions and points of departure such as Kahn’s dramatic black and white photo of a beach path winding thru a field of beach grass.
Kahn and Manzotti offer what can be done in black and white at different ends of the spectrum ? digitally, and with Kahn, silver gelatin photographs that are hand-processed.
Manzotti, who says she grew up in Italy, ?without a color TV? but still imagined things in color, shows work completed in and around her home in Chadds Ford, Pa. The issue of color doesn?t even register, in fact, with images that resemble silhouettes such as the photo depicting a pair of riders galloping up a hill, a sole tree perched on top.
The other exhibitors could be described as traditional landscape photographers who work in color using deceptively simple techniques and approaches. They may produce some computer-manipulated imagery, but they are purists at heart. The digital imagery of Nibouar, for instance, is often focused on colorful water reflections resembling the color field paintings of the American Abstract Expressionists.
He speaks for many in the group when he says he needs nothing more than a ?good quality digital SLR, one or two lenses, and a tripod.?
Even if you didn?t know an aperture from an armature, the exhibit can be enjoyed from a purely visual perspective in that most these photographers are interested in good old-fashioned narrative or story-telling.
Considering the range of ingenuity found here ? found ?happy? occurrences to photos taken after hours of waiting ? the exhibit might have easily have taken a line or two from Walden Pond. Thoreau’s life as both a recorder and a romantic is summed up in the line, ?it’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.?
Displayed throughout Hartcastle Gallery, nearly every photo poses a question or mystery. There’s an ?abandoned boardwalk inexplicably tossed,? as Boyden calls it, on a rocky edge he discovered in Patagonia. Graham’s photo ?Peter Pan? is aptly titled: a figure (is it a child, or Peter Pan?) is shown in a reflection on the ground (or is it the sky?). It takes a moment to realize that the bright crayon-like green hues is actually an edging of moss, and the inky black water is dark from surrounding rocks.
Characteristic of Graham’s talent for mining drama in every series he undertakes (fox hounds, Iceland glaciers, or weathered Maine outbuildings, to name three), he found his subject by looking underfoot and then letting chance intervene (the figure caught in a reflection). Still, depending on the work, he often does much of the creative work in the cropping and editing phase, discovering elements he might have missed and working much like a painter, bringing out values with every dodge and burn brush stroke.
Or as Graham puts it, it’s all about the subject and discovering a ?two-step process?: finding the image and then perfecting it.
If these photographers can?t find that unusual perspective close to home, they seek out their subjects as destination photographers. The short list of their travels shown here include Iceland, Utah, Maine, Patagonia, and Antarctica.
At the exhibit’s opening, Graham observed that much of the work reflects an interest in conservation and environmental concerns. But in the end, photographers such as himself typically have the focus as a visual artist who captures nature according to light, pattern and shape. Kahn’s photo of path, for instance, would have been another path leading the viewer’s eye elsewhere had it not been for the pattern of footprints in the sand and how they seem to echo the cloud formations in an expansive sky.
Krisch, who lives in Roanake, Va., is apparently both a studious and impromptu photographer (his web site includes examples of the latter, all shot with an iPhone). In the exhibit, his large seascapes of Antarctica might bring to mind the issues of melting glaciers. But as subjects, they evoke what the catalogue describes as ?timeless feelings of solitude.?
The exhibit is free, and gallery hours are 10am ? 6 pm, Mon.-Friday, 10 am ? 4 pm, Saturday.