Photography off the grid at Basho

ONWARD '08 installation shot
Installation shot at Project Basho

Something old, something new, something borrowed and cyanotype are mixing things up at Project Basho.

My first visit there ever was Thursday, and I drove by the place twice, on a street where there were no other options. Finally I asked a rare passerby for help and he directed me to the only place with lights on. Duh.

Basho is one of the city’s new co-op darkrooms that opened in the past year. It’s on Germantown Ave., a couple of blocks north of Girard.

The exhibit there, ONWARD ’08, is a juried group show, capturing the photographic zeitgeist and the real life zeitgeist at the same time that it explores a wide variety of photographic processes.

The juror is the well-known photographer Andrea Modica, who teaches at Drexel. She went through the work of nearly 300 photographers and more than 1,000 pictures to whittle the show down to 59.

Adam Davies
Adam Davies, James Street, Pittsburgh, C-print, 20 x 24 inches

I found myself especially interested in the images of modern life that belie the images we like to project about ourselves through television, movies and advertising. Adam Davies‘ James Street, Pittsburgh, shows a cityscape backyard that fits none of the conventions of landscape or cityscape, with its lower levels representing the hidden lives of people who certainly are nothing like the Cleavers. The view is lush and paradise-like–with a sense of disorder. Although this is not a staged photo, I couldn’t help but think of Jeff Wall and his undercurrent of an underworld.

Andrew Warren’s Black Cadillac, Rosindale, MA, shows an old, dull Cadillac parked by the curb on an undistinguished street. The vehicle is no treasured relic of the car culture–it’s the anti-Richard Prince, the anti-Robert Bechtle. Its ordinariness is the surprise.

And Kara Vuong’s Jung, is a black and white picture of a huge, Asian-looking young man sitting on a floor of classic checkerboard tiles, playing a little ukelele (i think). This too was a person and circumstance that our culture fails to represent as it tells the story of who we are and how we live.

Keiko Hiromi
Keiko Hiromi, Monadnock St., Silver Gelatin print, 11 x 14 inches

Similarly, Keiko Hiromi‘s Monadnock St. shows a pair sprawled on the bed amidst the cramped chaos of their lives. The relationship is unclear, but a sense of exhaustion and heat permeates all.

Adi Levy
Adi Lavy, Chris, C-print, 24 x 24 inches

Portraiture continues to find new ways to reinvent itself. Adi Lavy’s Chris, has a shocking array of freckled and mottled red skin on his round, youthful face–not the keepsake picture mom puts on the piano. I couldn’t be certain if I was looking at something beautiful or something embarrassing. Either way, the vulnerability of the subject raises questions about what it takes to be a man. Jessica Roberts‘ Before the Coming, Brian, (I had admired this picture in the L’Autre photography exhibit at Rosenwald-Wolf Gallery) also takes advantage of youth to question the stereotypes of manhood. Kate Anderson’s Protector explores how a coiuple of boys perceive and practice their roles as men.

Paul Weiner, Klean, Cibachrome, 16 x 16 inches
Paul Weiner, Klean, Cibachrome, 16 x 16 inches

The archest photo in the show was staged, with what looked like some digital collaging and manipulation. Klean, by Paul Weiner, is a faux set-up and a send-up of commercials for cleaning agents. Other staged photos were anything but arch.

The show had a large number of black and white photographs and old-fashioned images, lots of street photos, lots of portraits, lots of the-way-we-live photos, lots of the way-we-used-to-live and the way-we-used-to-shoot photographs. But the show’s strong suit were the photographs off the imagery grid. I was totally interested in the photos that present a different cultural self-awareness from the images that assault us on a daily basis. Plus it was great to look at the mix of what people are madly photographing!