Just over a month ago I received an E-mail from my camera club saying that there was a photo exhibition in Richmond, not far from where I work. Other than it was a showing of Chinese photography there was little in the way of information. The exhibition was to run from June 30th thru July 5th. Well, I like to see what others are doing and so I determined to go. But I was not prepared for what I found.

I left work early on the Friday, the first day of the exhibition, and went over to the venue. In fact the space was very basic, much like a warehouse. Really, I think it was a warehouse. And it was busy. It was very busy. Being the opening day they had a lot going on. As a result it was very difficult to really get into the photos.

But that was not the problem. The photography on display was absolutely georgous; the finest photography I had ever seen collected in one place. I knew right away that there was no point staying. I was going to come back when I could relax and absorb these fantastic pictures. So I left and determined to return on the following Wednesday, the last day of the show. My thinking was that there would be few people there and I could take my time and really enjoy.

On the last day of the show I returned with lots of time before closing and I was right: there were only a few people. Camera in hand I walked the walls looking at every picture.

Now, of course not every image appealed to me and I was critical of some, but, on the whole, the imagination and talent on display was truly impressive. The images were all large and they varied in subject and treatment. It really rocked me back on my heels to see such work. It made me realize how far I had to go yet in my own photography. My immediate reaction was discouragement. I could never be this good.  I’ve come through that phase  in the month that has past and I am more determined than ever to “up my game”.

For me, this was the image that I would have taken home had I room on a wall. It was in the style of a French impressionist and it was glorious. It needed a much different mounting and different print medium but the image was my choice for the whole show.

By the time I returned to the Exhibition I had already thought I would write about it. And so I took my camera with me to take a few pictures.

But I made a mistake and after all of the years I have been taking pictures I should have remembered: I did not take along a polarizing filter. All of the images were under glass and with the bright directional lighting the reflections were strong. It was not possible to simply stand in front of a picture and make the photograph. I had to shoot from the side to divert reflections and even then I could not eliminate them.

So I include images here for you of what I saw, but these poor copies can only give you a shallow impression of what I saw. The reflections are readily apparent and for that I do apologize. In most cases I had to stand to the side and take pictures at an angle to suppress the distracting glass reflections. The imperfections you see in these images I assure you are my failings and not the artists’.

To be there was better. Way better!

In the month since the show I have thought about it every day. My wonder at the quality of the images has not abated. My desire to be better myself is strong. But what did I learn about photography and art? I have been puzzling that one every day since.

This simple black and white image so portrayed the person seated there that you ended up gazing and wondering who she was, where was she, what is she thinking? She came across completely real.

This treatment of the wisteria blossoms reated a delightful abstraction that was very pleasant to gaze at. The use of selective focus and shallow depth of field is very effective. This image does not do the original justice in that it does not capture the delicate range of colors present in the print on display.

Black and white is a great treatment for a rugged face and this portrait was incredible. This was a face you could look and see something different every time. There were several very interesting black and white images on display.

I have some gentle criticism of the event that is germane to the question. First, all of the images were framed, matted and under glass in identical fashion as if they had been stamped out in some kind of photography factory.

Now, I have been in museums all over the world and the only art work I have seen under glass is the Mona Lisa. Glass is distracting. There is no way around it. It is. But more than that, it reduces a photograph from art to photographic print. It is treating these images as less than art.

Secondly, every print was framed and matted in the exact same materials. I don’t think you do that to art. These photographers all tried to show a part of our world as they saw it using their own techniques. And the results were different and varied. And yet the framing took that individuality and tried to enforce a sameness upon it.

The treatment of this image created the impression of a watercolor with delicate lines and soft tones. It cried out for a textured paper and to be released from the confines of the glass.

I do not claim to be an artist but I ty to treat each image in the way it seems to demand. I do as much of my own mounting as I can, I build my own frams for my canvas prints and stretch them myself, I sign my fram and I sign my print. I try to create a unique piece that represents my best effort at representing an image as it impressed me. I try to create a piece of “art”. And each one comes out looking unique. Some are in gold frames, some are with black mattes, some are stretched canvas with no frames. And for me the presentation is a part of the image; it is part of my effort to convey my reality. I don’t want my images to all receive the same treatment.

All of the images at the exhibition seemed to be on very similar photo paper. Now, they were under glass so texture was really supressed. But to me, texture is important; it is part of the impression the artists wants to convey. That is whay there are so many types of paper available.

I was not able to learn anything about the phographers who’s images were represented. I would have appreciated a thumbnail biography of each and his website address in the program booklet.  I love to see other examples of a man or woman’s work and in some cases follow them on-line. This would have increased my enjoyment of the show and my desire to see more work by these people.

But all of that said, this was an amazing exhibition of photography. Their promotional material refers to this as the “1st annual….” and I hope they do have future shows. I will certainly not miss the next one. And I will take my poloarizing filter.

Finally, an apology. I did not keep notes of the photographers whose work I took pictures of. As a result I cannot give credit to them. Also, I would have liked to contact the organizers of the show and express my thanks and to ask permission to use these pictures as I have. But nowhere in their material could I find an e-mail address. If my use of any of these images gives offense I will, of course, remove them immediately.