Latkes, love and art on the side at Photo West

A book of photographs by Laurence Salzmann, with text by Aysa Gursan-Salzmann, comes in Spanish and in English editions.

Whenever I walk into Photo West Gallery, I’m conscious of its being a home-like place, an extension of founder/photographer Laurence Salzmann and his values and network. I went on a day the gallery was closed, and sure enough, there was life being lived behind the closed door. I interrupted lunch. Salzmann was downing some chile with his friend, photographer W. Keith McManus and mural artist Ana Uribe.

Over 80

Psychiatrist Morton Herskowitz spends his summers painting landscapes.

McManus, who sometimes even camps at the gallery, had a cot set up in a first floor gallery space holding photographs by community activist Lenora Berson, who is 80 years young. In the hallway, her husband Morton Herskowitz, a Center City psychiatrist nearing 90, had a display of his watercolors (which were sold out). His proceeds were to go to Doctors Without Borders, Berson’s to the Freire Charter School in Center City.

Escape from Narberth

Artist Ana Uribe on the third floor of Photo West Gallery, is working there on her Chinese Landscape for the Philadelphia Mural Arts Program.

Uribe was at lunch there because she was working up on the third floor on a mural for the 10th Street overpass over Rt. 676. Once the panels are applied to the overpass, Chinese Landscape will be viewed from the Vine Street Expressway, so she needed to find a way to see it from afar.

The long view of the mural is the reason why she no longer lives in Narberth. Uribe had been renting a place there and mounted some of the mural panels on her garage door to get some distance from the piece. She said the neighborhood kids loved the painting and the process, but apparently, some of the adults didn’t. She got a notice to “remove her junk” in three days or the real estate agent–Long & Foster–would remove it for her and bill her for their costs.

A section of Uribe’s mural-in-progress.

So she rolled it up. And then she rolled up all her belongings and moved to Old City. But her living room there is small. No long view.

Up on the third floor in Photo West, the mural panels now line both long walls of the space. They just barely fit. But Uribe seems happy and engrossed in her research on Asian landscape traditions. Piles of Chinese, Japanese and Impressionist landscapes litter a sofa along with pages of instructions from an Asian book on how to paint a tree.

Turning Pages

PagesBooks by photographer David Graham are among the offerings in Turning

Meanwhile, on the floor between McManus’ bedroom and Uribe’s temporary studio, Turning Pages, a display of photographs and books, is the main event this month at the gallery–making the place a good stop for politically engaged Chanukka and Christmas presents with Jewish, African American, Philadelphia, Latin American and American-American themes.

Lamont Steptoe has books of poetry and photographs for sale.

The Americana comes from the wonderful David Graham, who has published a number of books of his photographs. For a focus on Philadelphia, photographer E.C. (Ted) Adams’ Between the Cracks is a good choice. Poet Lamont B. Steptoe has several books of his poetry for sale, along with some of his photographs of African Americans.

Jason Francisco
Hand-bound and published books by Jason Francisco

Photography book artist Jason Francisco, who’s a recent transplant here from the West Coast, has both published books of photographs and some handmade books with complex bindings. Francisco’s subjects include the Jewish diaspora. Salzmann too has books with Jewish themes, as well a Latin American ones. One, which has text by Aysa Gursan-Salzmann, comes in both Spanish and English editions; on the cover are finials for Torah scrolls.

E.C. Adams’ book of Philadelphia photographs

Latkes–bring the trimmings

Which takes me to the latke party. Here’s the info from an email from Salzmann:

At our book event on Sunday will serve Potatoe Latkes made by Jewish and Irish men based on old Polish recipes like your grandmother used to make. Demonstration if you arrive before 2PM.

Please bring wine to share or apple sauce or sour cream. How is that?

Hannuka Gelt if you are feeling generous. Can be chocolate or gold based.

…We promise a good time for both foodies and lovers of photography.

Like I said, Photo West may have white walls, but it’s not a chilly gallery space so much as a place for people to get together, almost a commune of shared values. It reflects the liberal values of its Powelton Village neighborhood. The art is just a bonus.