At the Philadelphia Photo Arts Center (and spilling into the adjacent hallways of the Crane Arts building) is the massive sampling platter that is the 3rd Annual Photography exhibition. The exhibit showcases a wide variety of contemporary photography in many different forms. Present in the show are abstractions, portraits, manipulated images and documentary photos, to name a few. With 44 artists displaying images, it is definitely a heavyweight in the world of art photography.
Knight Arts Challenge winner Philadelphia Photo Arts Center proves its power to harness the competitive field of photography into a single, albeit heterogeneous, exhibition of current themes surrounding the medium of captured images. The work is curated by Natasha Egan and Kathy Ryan, and it acts as a worthy counterweight to the democratic Philly Photo Day, recipient of a 2012 Knight Arts grant, which highlights all submitted photos taken in the city of Philadelphia on a pre-designated day. This year’s Philly Photo Day will be held on October 26th, with the presentation of the photos following the 24-hour camera extravaganza.
In the current juried photo exhibition, certain images continuously throw the viewer for a loop. Case in point is the photo by Tatiana Grigorenko. At first the fuzzy film quality and high saturation are reminiscent of some type of Americana. The image looks like some type of nostalgic family photo, but upon closer inspection the couple in bathing suits is actually gleefully sprawled out next to a Confederate battle flag, and the context immediately changes. Analyzing the image even more, the outline of where a baby used to be lies directly in the father’s hands and on the flag. The baby was apparently edited out, making the image all the more haunting.
William Baumer’s photo “Containment” is surreal and verges on abstraction. The picture depicts a circular, plastic tube with ribs and a walkway. As a standalone image, the lack of context makes the pathway an intriguing form in its own right – the light at the end of the tunnel, the form of the structure itself. It also holds implications of disease and outbreak, especially with a name like containment. One can’t help but remember the setup used by the antagonists in the Spielberg movie “E.T. the Extraterrestrial.”
The documentary photography of Tim Gruber ranges from the everyday – a few teenage girls standing on the beach in “Summer” – to the sublime in “Dreams Relocated.” Here Gruber shows us one of those things you “don’t see every day.” On a sandy beachside property, a group of machines surrounds and lifts up an entire house. The idea of a timeshare or a beach house being moved makes an already uncommon event even more quaint since these locations are where people go to “get away.” Now it’s as if the vacation can come to you.
Aliza Augustine’s photo montage “Home Is Where The Heart Is” catches the eye with a surprising amount of color and detail. In front of some European-looking side street stands a pile of stuff: furniture, lamps and dolls, among many others. The mountain of accumulated things reminds us of our own possessions and knack for collecting while potentially sending a warning about over-consumption and hoarding. Behind the pile is an unsaturated photo of a young man, leading the viewer to believe there is some historical or personal background to the objects and places in the image.
Contemporary photography is showcased in the Philadelphia Photo Arts Center’s 3rd Annual Photography exhibition, with droves of photos from the mundane to the strikingly surreal. There are faces and places and forms which, together, make for a show that appeals to many tastes and provides a stimulating barrage of images. The show will be on display until September 8.