Quick shout-out to Melissa Stafford, curator at the Carrie Haddad Photographs gallery in Hudson, NY. Kim, Laura, Bennett and myself stopped by last Saturday to check her new show, “ORDINARY THINGS: When artists make their private life public”, on display until December 12, 2010. This exhibition asks a simple question, “What is it like, living with a photographer?”, and brings captivating answers through works by David Lebe, Thatcher Keats, Sabine Delafon, Allyson Levy & Harry Wilks. This is an interesting subject to anybody who cares about photography and is subjecting his/her entourage to the ubiquitous eye of a camera. I’m guilty as charged. Where should I draw the limit? Is there one? If you are a friend or partner, do you protect yourself from this assault, or do you use it to your advantage?
From the exhibition page: “Family members, children, spouses, partners, and friends – all those closest to an artist – often see every move or moment of their daily life turned into subject matter. Sometimes these subjects are willing participants, sometimes not. Some open up and give access to intimate situations; others withdraw, lose patience or remain altogether apathetic. The recorded moments can range from heroic life and death struggles to lighter, more quotidian passages of time; morning rituals, the gradual aging of a wife and child, sharing meals, birthday celebrations, arriving home from an afternoon at school.”
In the header photo and above, an inspiring series of 20 or so photos by Harry Wilks. This is one of the most interesting piece of the show in my opinion, as it spans more than two decades. It started in 1987 as a simple picture of the artist’s wife and young son, leaning on the bumper of their first car, and turned into a photo ritual year after year. Watch his son age, turn into a teenager, his wife mature, gracefully. This series was never intended to be shown in a gallery – it was a personal project. Melissa Stafford asked Harry if she could show them and from there the whole exhibit started to grow as more artists joined the project. I was impressed by the vision and the resolve of Wilks, the strong composition over 20 years, the attention to details. I wish I had started such a project already.
In the photo above, a similar series by Allyson Levy (here is the whole wall covered in Polaroids, shot by co-curator Karen Crumley Keats). This project was intended to record the transition of her daughter, from a little girl to young woman. The only rules of the project, according to Levy, were that she could take a photo, whenever she wanted, only once. Once taken, she would leave the photo for her daughter to write on, after which she would date and store it away. This is a fun series, full of loving moments and awkward poses only teenagers can pull off. Levy used the Polaroid format because of “its ability to capture a moment and produce an image almost instantaneously”. I’m not a huge fan of Polaroids and faux-vintage in general, but this is one subject I can think of where this format definitely works.
Three more artists are featured in the show but I don’t want to spoil your visit. Feel free to check the exhibition’s preview online and the illustrated catalog on Blurb for more. Use the slideshow above to flip through the catalog (click on the “Full Screen” button for a better experience).
There are a few more pieces in the back, including this very textured collage of flowers layered in beeswax above by Allyson Levy again, beautiful light-drawing photos in black & white from the late 70′s and 80′s by David Lebe, and large landscapes. “We purposely wanted to exhibit more known or familiar works from each of the artists’ in Ordinary Things careers in the middle room of the gallery. The hope was that visitors might walk away with a better, and deeper, understanding for each artist and their work”, shares Melissa Stafford. If you like urban exploration (and you do, right?), try to ask her if you can take a peek at Chad Kleitsch pictures, his Asylum series is fantastic.
I met Melissa Stafford a while ago, before she took over this space on Warren St. for Carrie Haddad. She has given me a lot of advices since I started, and I’m really proud to see all the hard work she has put in this gallery (photo above by Karen Crumley Keats). I had the opportunity to show my photos in and around Albany several times this year, and let me share this one thing: I’ve been lucky so far, but make sure your work is not stuck in a dark corner, at the bottom of a wall. This gave me an even greater appreciation for a gallery that is well lit, clean, and nicely laid out. There is a lot of variety in the 8+ shows presented every year, I invite you to stop by the next time you make a trip to Columbia County. There are cider donuts at Golden Harvest Farms on Route 9, hurry up.
In the picture above, Kim hiding from my camera. This was not even a staged meta moment, but it fit right in; Kim doesn’t like to have her picture taken. Of course, Bennett and I had to harass our poor friend the whole day. We love you, old friend. Our dear Laura, on the other hand, loves the camera. Or maybe she loves the attention of Bennett behind the camera, who knows? I do :)
It is not easy to take photographs of the people you love, even with the best intentions. A lot of the pictures I capture are meant to keep distinct memories of my life, like this beautiful day we were sharing in Hudson. There is precious timeline to each photograph that I also enjoy on my own. I like the fun, exciting instant I take a photo. I prize the warm feeling I get looking at it at home later that day. I care for the moment, months later, when I look back at what we accomplished in a season. Truth is, a photo can bite back a few years later down the road, reminding me of a place and time I wish I had forgotten about, but I embrace it too. Keep shooting.
“Ordinary Things” is on display November 11, 2010 through December 12, 2010. The Carrie Haddad Photographs gallery can be found 318 Warren Street, Hudson, NY, 12534. It is open daily 11am to 5pm except Wednesday, free (518) 828-7655.
More photos of the show in this photoset on Flickr. Those were shot by Karen Crumley Keats, who co-curated this exhibit with Melissa Stafford. Karen is married to Thatcher Keats – she appears in this photograph from the exhibit – like Kim, she does not seem to like to be photographed :)