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Diverse talents on display at Artlink’s Fort Wayne Photographers

By Dan Swartz

Fort Wayne Reader


Although the dead of winter descended upon Fort Wayne early on December 12th, Artlink was filled with artists, collectors, and admirers, keeping warm while admiring some great photography. The show, “Fort Wayne Photographers”, a survey of over 60 area photographers, was preceded by a gallery talk by Cara Lee Wade, photography professor at the University of St. Francis and an accomplished photographer in her own right. The show included works from notable locals like Stephanie Leyden, Joel Hernandez, Stephen M. Perfect, Nicole Croy, Tom Galliher, and Christopher Crawford.

While photography has become an invaluable tool for journalism for documentation and education for the dissemination of ideas, lay observers of the art world may not realize the fundamental shift that the art world took with the advent of photography. Technically art-as-a-whole, and at the time, the scientific techniques of photography began to wed themselves through the French Impressionists in the second half of the eighteenth century. This merger snowballed after the appearance of art dealer and photographer Alfred Stieglitz; cheaper methods for producing photographs; and general social acceptance of the medium came in the early 20th century. Later, photography would become a part of human life through Kodak and Polaroid, and would become a common currency for our current information age. Photography plays an important roll in both the commoditization and conceptualization of art. It has made artists question the purpose of art, the existence of “the gaze,” and be even more innovative in a pursuit to stay valid in a time when every bit of natural beauty can be captured, manipulated, and reproduced on massive scales for extremely low costs.

“Fort Wayne Photographers,” being a large group show containing a wide range of media, is more of a collection of possible methods than a clear statement about photography itself. Being that this was a survey of a relatively small geographic area, the number of photographers and their skill level says much for the Fort Wayne area. Four artists stood out from the rest in this show rather clearly.

Christopher Crawford also presented a beautiful photograph, entitled “Grandpa and Apollo,” which is fulfilling on many different levels. First, Crawford’s photography is superb from every technical sense. This is very important in any judgment of a photograph; although it may be an art form, open for subjective interpretation and opinion, it also has roots in science and design. Crawford mixes the two in a captivating way in this image, one that I enjoyed initially, and found myself constantly coming back to. The second reason for this piece’s success is its lack of pretension. Not titled “My deepest despair” or some other histrionic phrase, “Grandpa and Apollo” is “just” an image of an elderly man looking out a window with his dog. Yet this simple image becomes very moving and quit emotional through the lens of a talented photographer.

The simplicity really carries this image far. It shows, in a great way, how truth has a great deal to do with great art. While many times artists will use hyperbole or overly dramatic concepts and processes to propel art, many times they can just as easily find that great shot of an everyday event which carries so much meaning to the viewer when correctly paired with beautiful technical capacity.

Tom Galliher, another technically great photographer, has a beautiful piece entitled “Jess and John”, which is a striking portrait of a man’s partially tattooed neck, back, and head. The format and media really help this photograph. It is a black and white photograph that is technically a digital print of a Polaroid, yet it retains all of the nostalgic mood and specificity of the Polaroid, and its larger size adds greatly to the piece’s presence. The intimacy of the image draws the viewer in, while the title leaves them hanging, piecing the image together.

Joel Hernandez also provided an interesting piece, entitled “Tea Tone.” While toning a photo with tea is actually a very old process, this is the first time I have seen it done in Fort Wayne, and was pleased with the instant ancient look that it provides. “Tea Tone” is a photograph of a nude, with such high contrast being used that the figure looks almost ghost like. In addition to this, Hernandez framed the image in a shadowbox-like frame and included with it a small honey combed nest, which mirrors the aging look of the photo, and creates a small visual pun.

Steph Leyden succeeds in creating a very interesting photograph with “Connection,” which is a collage image of 20 Polaroid photographs, which have been lifted and placed together to created an image of an old iron bridge. The deep cobalt blue color is beautiful and sets a somewhat somber tone to the image. The grid, which is more visible at first, is beautiful in itself. The image, which is quite simple, is actually full of art historical references, from Agnes Martin to Yves Klein.

“Fort Wayne Photographers” represents the great photographic talent that Fort Wayne has, and provides the viewer with a great sampling of all the possible types of photography that are popular and possible.

This show will be up until January 14th, 2009. Also don’t forget to look down the hallway which connects Artlink with Cinema Center which has Artlink’s Postcard Show, which is a fundraiser, and contains pieces by artists all over the country and even internationally.

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