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Photo Salon for the Exchange of Ideas

Photo Salon for the Exchange of Ideas
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Photography is the hottest medium in the art world at the moment and has been now for almost a decade. The accessibility of photo technology in a digital age is making it possible for a veritable army of artists to generate imagery for all intents and purposes.

A Photo Salon

As I’ve been writing monthly for Photo District News (PDN) since 1999, I was invited recently to a salon supper in Portland hosted by Heather Frederick of Vox Photographs, a new online photography gallery.

On a snowy Wednesday evening, I joined a half-dozen others for soup and a slide show in the seventh-floor apartment overlooking Portland City Hall, where Heather, who lives most of the time in Belfast with her husband, painter Linden Frederick, shows contemporary and vintage photographs by appointment.

Susan Danley, curator at the Portland Museum of Art; Anne Zill, director of the University of New England art gallery; Portland art dealer Dan Kany; and photographers David Brooks Stess and David Puntel braved the wintry mix and slick roads to share supper and attend a slide lecture by Brenton Hamilton of Maine Media Workshops.

Founded in 1973, Maine Media Workshops did business in Rockport as Maine Photographic Workshops until last year, when it became a nonprofit. The workshops offer some 250 courses a year, making Maine a mecca for photographers.

Hamilton surveyed the history of photography from 1900 to 1930 in some 50 slides, charting the evolution from stereopticon views through Pictorialism and the Photo Secession movements to the social documentary tradition in America and Modernism in Europe. He also explored the issue of the democratizing of photography as the cumbersome technology of glass and metal plates gave way to plastic Kodak film.

The liveliest part of the discussion that followed was over Vox Photography’s motto: “A photograph should always speak for itself.” Heather Frederick is of the purist mindset, believing that every viewer, sophisticated or naive, should be able to see whatever he or she sees in a photograph. I, on the other hand, feel that you can’t really understand an image unless you know something about the artist’s intent and the historical context in which it was created. Everyone knows what he or she likes, but very few people know why. There’s a big difference been enjoyment and appreciation.

Frederick’s Vox Photography represents nine contemporary photographers and also sells digital reproductions of vintage photographs by Anonymous, “my favorite photographer,” as Brenton Hamilton put it. One of the wonderful and disconcerting things about photography is that it’s possible for rank amateurs to take great photographs — just not with the consistency of professionals.

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7 Responses to Photo Salon for the Exchange of Ideas

  1. Kelly Schwark March 14, 2008 at 9:24 am #

    Great article! I love the idea of a warm cup of soup and a friendly exchange of inspiration! And as for understanding the reasoning and story behind someone?s art, it is the reason why I love lurking around artists blogs! Isn’t the purpose of art to share an emotion, feeling or experience with the viewer? Or maybe it’s just for the process of creating? I’m not sure.

    Oh, there are SO many things that I want to comment on, but I’m afraid I’d take up too much space. I’ll just leave it at thanks for sharing!?

  2. Ed Beem March 14, 2008 at 4:37 pm #

    I’m glad you found Just Looking and enjoyed it. I just got home from seeing a major photography exhibition in Massachusetts that I’ll post some thoughts about in a week or so.

  3. Betty Pauwels March 17, 2008 at 8:17 am #

    New into photography, very serioius about learning, I enjoyed reading your article, discovering photographers. I am linking your journal to my photoblog.

  4. Ed Beem March 18, 2008 at 7:04 am #

    Betty, And I’m new at blogging. Where can I find your photoblog? Best, Ed

  5. Betty Pauwels March 26, 2008 at 3:04 pm #

    Ed my blog Enjoy. I hope you find the time comment on my journal.


  6. Ed Beem March 28, 2008 at 10:02 am #

    Betty, I have checked out your blog several times. I enjoy the natural and personal feel of both your photographs and your blog.

  7. Betty Pauwels April 28, 2008 at 11:34 am #

    Ed thank you for taking the time to visit my blog. My journal started, as my title reads, My Day, My Interests, naturally ended up as photoblog.

    I am learning photography also areas we visit. I absolutely love and enjoy traveling the back roads of New Hampshire and New England, always exploring for new photo opportunities. I found blogging allows me to share my photography, make new friends plus I welcome comments just saying hello or offering tips.

    This past weekend we found and old grist mill located in East Alstead. (covered bridges, old barns, waterfalls and etc….a very good weekend of shooting) When we returned we had to learn about the history, name and what it was used for. Chase Mill I will be posting my images today.

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