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The persistence of film

hermanskywalkerI’d been meaning to write about the photography show at Nexus last month before it closed, but somehow it slipped my mind (shown, Douglas F. Herman’s “Skywalker,” a cross-processed C-print).

The show was a competition sponsored by the City Paper and the Center for the Photographic Image, the latter a group of local photographers who are trying to get some synergy and cooperation going amongst themselves and other photographers, said Boru O’Brien O’Connell, who was gallery-sitting with the photos when I got there.

Some of the cooperation was practical—sharing of printing equipment, he said.

This reminded me that there’s another group of photographers joining forces. I bumped into some members of the Philadelphia Photographer’s Initiative in the spring one First Friday, displaying their work on the hurricane fence on 2nd Street. Hmmm. Might be a movement.

Some of the 64 images out of 650 submissions from the five-state region were more original or more riveting than others. The favorite theme seemed to be Americana.

slatterywinterbeforewar1and2A couple of standouts were the startling Herman print and Shannon Slattery’s Winter Before War # 1 and 2, tiny gum bichromate pinhole photos (shown, sorry for the reflections), tiny landscapes that suggested huge fields covered with stubble and snow with barely readable marks that looked more drawn than photographed. Chilly.

The show included several digital prints; but about a third of the images were gelatin silver prints, and about half were C-prints. The strong persistence of film in art photography surprised me. I’m not sure why I was surprised, since my friends who are photographers also stick to film in their art work. But in the business and casual photography world, digital has pretty well crowded out film.

oconnellself portraitwithfamMy tour guide, O’Brien O’Connell, had two photos of his own in the show, both posed, large C-prints. Here’s “Self-Portrait with Family.” (I’m apologizing again for reflections in the glass.) His other photo of a worker (a model) in a lab was even more claustrophobic.

Although many of the works in show seemed young, there were enough strong pieces to make me slow down and look.