2014 Graduate Show at the Southeast Museum of Photograhy
by Ivan Riascos
So this past month I saw two photography shows. One was held at Gallery 500 at West Livingston in Orlando, Florida and other was held on the Main campus of Daytona State College at the Southeast Museum of Photography. Both shows were made up of 2014 Bachelor of Science Photography graduates from the joint program between Daytona State College and The University of Central Florida. The differences between the shows were location, title, and gender. The one exhibiting in Orlando was titled Bed of Roses, and the photographers exhibiting were all females. The exhibition in Daytona was the entire 2014 class including some repeat images from the exhibition in Orlando, but some were framed differently.
The thing that caught my attention was how the show was laid out. My main complaint is that I am tired of seeing poorly displayed art. Not knowing the circumstances such as; did the show have a curator? Were the students responsible for hanging the work themselves? Who determine how much space to exhibit the artwork? This statement is aimed mostly towards the exhibition at the Southeast Museum of Photography at Daytona State College. Most of the images were crammed onto the gallery walls and not given enough space between each photographer, so some photographers were limited to 2 or 3 images while others had a little more up to 6 images. Again I do not know the behind the scene circumstances if some photographers had only two images to exhibit and hung what they had, but it is disappointing seeing an art show and wanting to see more images. Do not get me wrong I have seen the artist’s concept come across crystal clear in one image, but when the artist states “This is from a series,” and I only see two images, it is disheartening! Maybe the school should give more consideration, and attention to the students on their exit from the program when they are showing their best and final work, and this also reflects on the school’s program. They should have somebody who understands the visual language when displayed on the wall, which seems to lack from the several shows I have seen in the past, and assign each student a certain amount of wall space, and make room if possible in other galleries.
One thing I have been noticing is the current fad of photographers choosing to ignore intentionally, or unintentionally the formalist style in the history of photography. I do not know why this is, but this is my hypothesis. I believe that taking photos with smart phones is heavily influencing current photographers and this is becoming the norm, giving current photography a new standard in how we define beautiful. If there is a movement in photography today similar to Picasso first paintings into Cubism, or Warhol’s introduction of screen prints, I find myself being the guy in the camp of formalism and opposing the new style. I consider myself very conceptual and I will not care about the quality of the image as long as it fits the artist intentions and concepts, but I find myself having difficulty viewing images when the photographer is approaching one constant theme with the same wide angle. I understand that documentaries use of the Single Lens Reflex cameras and love the look, but they will jump from portraitures, to informal portraitures, or capturing the moment from far away, to up close and personal, or capturing that specific moment before it slips away, but if the photographer is taking the same image from the same distance, the composition is the same in all images, and the photographer is not adding or taking away from the frame then they should treat is with respect. The reason I bring this up is because in the exhibition the works of MaKay Hartley, Kristina Jarquin, and Nathan Wyatt had good basic concepts, but missed the delivery. I believe if all three had moved away from the wide-angled lens of a Digital Single Lens Reflex camera and used a large format camera and treated their subject with respect the images would have been more powerful. Even if they could not get their hands on a large format camera, at least they could had straighten lens perspective and vertical lines using Photoshop.
MaKay Hartley’s body of work titled Remembrance was one of the strongest concepts in landscape photography. Using her hometown of Lake Wales, she captured various places where pivotal situations in her life occurred while growing up. She does not offer insight to what happen exactly, but through the use of titles the viewer gets a glimpse into what might had happen at that specific location.
Four photographers working with concepts that have been used in the past by previous photographers, but with a twist is Kristina Jarquin, Alicia Lynn, Corryn Lytle, and Nathan Wyatt. Kristina’s work titled Modern Families remind me of August Sander’s attempt at documenting German society at the beginning of the twentieth century. Kristina is defining new portraiture on how a family looks in the United States in the twenty-first century. The images depict not only the family, but also the exterior of their own homes are used as backdrops adding more rich information about the environment.
I’m not a fan of Dawoud Bey’s portraits of today’s youth, but Alicia Lynn’s work titled Young Reflections bridges the distance between viewer and subject, which Bey’s lacks in my opinion. Alicia made a series of informal portraits of Daytona’s Boys and Girls Club that you make you feel like you personally met the children in the images for a brief second.
Nathan Wyatt’s No Vacancy is about vacant buildings found in the Central Florida region reminiscent of local photographer Rick Lang, but with the use color. Wyatt is recording Florida’s economic history through the architecture of various buildings that are vacant. Both Wyatt and Kristina Jarquin are dealing with two different themes, but are documenting and showing our present landscape in Florida’s society.
Eternal by Corryn Lytle works on the same level as Alicia Lynn’s images. You understand and feel the relation of the subjects, which is a documentation of the special bond and unconditional love shared between a little girl named Marlea and her Great Aunt Sarah. We are reminded of the lack of innocence as adults when viewing these images. The only negative thing I have to say about Lytle’s work is that I want to see more images and in a wider span of time if possible.
Becoming the Son by Robert Biferie was a very powerful work on a conceptual level, where he acknowledges his father’s influence in his life by combining the images of churches that his father took with his own images of natural landscapes. To me this speaks on many different levels. This attempt to combine two definitions in what they believe is spiritual, his father’s search for some kind of resolution in religion, and Robert’s natural landscapes could be seen as his own church in a spiritual sense. This reminds me of sorts the story of Jesus’s and his conversation with his Father the night prior to being captured by Roman soldiers, where he went through a barrage of emotions and coming to an understanding. The series is a very private conversation between Robert and his father and only he knows the outcome.
The one body of work that surprised me the most was that of Nicholas McNeill titled Persona. The four images on displayed are a self-portrait of a young man, but the face is always cropped right below the nose. He is dressed the same in blue dress shirt and jeans in all the images, but the setting, the object he holds in his hands, and his shoes change in each image. You can see a very controlling and intentional hand of the photographer in all the images. What surprised me is that I did not agree with his artist statement and the images shown. He goes into too much into detail of what inspired him or in this case a physical handicap that formed his identity that I feel he loses sight of what his work reflects. Yes as artists we sometimes lose sight of what our intentions with our results. The images caught my attention because of the darkness, oddity, and controling factor reenacting a past scenario by photographer and not so much about “fitting in.”
I want to congratulate the graduating class of 2014, and I hope to see works from these photographers/artists in the future.