Onward! and upward with photos at Basho

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With internationally recognized photographer Larry Fink as juror, Project Basho has once again made its annual photography show a must-see event–an event that this year brought in submissions from 600 photographers. Of the 63 photographers selected, only a couple were familiar to me, some of them from as far away as Japan, Moscow and Spain.

Virginie Blachere, Richard Feliz, Digital C-Print, 16×24 inches

Portraits dominated the show, or maybe that’s what attracted me most. Virginie Blachere’s startling androgynous portrait of Richard Feliz is breathtaking for the beauty of the subject as well as the gender-bending signifiers of flowing hair, sensual lips and greeny yellow eyes. Like her two other photos of beautiful young people, the situation here suggests questions about sexuality, identity and class.

Rebecca Soderholm, Emma and Water Glass, New Haven, inkjet print, 16 x 16 inches

Rebecca Soderholm’s Emma and Water Glass, New Haven, is pink–the national color for preteen girls. I don’t know what was in the glass. Maybe just water, maybe not. But the pose on tossed sheets on a sofa and the spill suggest a life not exactly pink, whether the child is still a child–or not.

Megan Ledbetter, untitled, silver print, 20 x 16 inches

The half-mast eyes of Megan Ledbetter’s subject, obscured in shadows and plaids, is equally anti-romantic, the woodsman without his bravado, tangled in a milieu that looks like a net or a trap. I want to contrast this to the dignity and virility of Pieter Hugo’s hunters and hyena men–even in their poverty.

These unromantic takes on American culture and images of young people enmeshed in their surroundings are the opposite of glamor, movie stars and dreams. This is where real people are right now. The sheets are pink, the dress is pink, the rest is a depressed reality.

Not everything was portraits though.

Adrienne Grunwald, Pleasant Valley Hills, inkjet print, 30 x 40 inches

The obsessive, controlled landscape of Adrienne Grunwald’s suburban nightmare, Pleasant Valley Hills, is pretty funny, although I suppose people who choose to live there think it’s great. Grunwald captures the placement of each leaf, each blade of grass, each trimmed topiary form, dwarfed by McMansions. The gardener looks lost in all that vast, impersonal space!

Rowan James, untitled, inkjet print, 12 x 18 inches

The sheen of an asphalt patch on a dark road glows with promise, a repair emanating an aura that becomes a sign of a transcendent future–or just a light phenomenon. Some other favorites of mine included Michael Koehler’s Along Bayou Road, St. Bernard LA, and photos by Robb Siverson, Chandler Holmes, and Sarah Cohen.

Sandy Alpert, “New York Morning,” silver print, 12 x 17 inches

The juror picked two prize winners–Mary Beth Meehan for Ashleigh’s Bouquet and Sandy Alpert for New York Morning–a throwback to Henri-Cartier-Bresson and to Lisette Model, who was Larry Fink’s teacher. Of the 70 works, 10 got honorable mentions, including the Virginie Blachere and the Rebecca Soderholm photos above. The West Collection Purchase Award went to Pierfrancesco Celada for “The Phone, Tokyo,” a digital C-print.

After opening only four years years ago, Basho founder Tsuyoshi Ito told me that photography classes at the photography center now have more than 350 enrolled students, and lots of volunteers and interns helping to run the place. Basho specializes in old-fashioned wet-process photography. And right up the road at the Crane Arts Center is another photo center, PPAC, which specializes in digital, making that corner of Kensington photo central.

The show will run to March 27, after which it will travel to Tokyo, along with Fink and two of the participants, whose trips are underwritten by Ricoh. Ricoh Gallery will host the show.

Tags

adrienne grunwald, chandler holmes, larry fink, megan ledbetter, michael koehler, project basho, rebecca soderholm, robb siverson, rowan james, sandy alpert, sarah cohen, virginie blachere

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