For the moment, you are transported to exotic places - Bhutan, China, India, Iceland, Cuba, Panama - through the eyes and the vision of six photographers.
You are in that moment, eyes locked in a gaze at the subject looking back at you.
The exhibit, "Visions of the World," which just opened at the Gold Coast Arts Center gallery in Great Neck, does more than temporarily transport you to such exotic locales: It inspires you and teaches you how to see, how to engage.
These are artistic expression no less than the painter.
What impresses you most is the differences in “vision,” in style, in approach of the six photographers whose works are represented. Look even deeper, and you realize they have captured a fleeting moment – a chance combination of light, color, mood, faces, expressions.
Some photographers still use film, some are even shooting Black and White; some hand-color the images, for some, the photographic image is one element in a multi-media creation. For some, it was a fortuitous instant snap; for others, their image took months to prepare, research, conceptualize, set up and months more to process the image into an artistic whole.
That was the case for Jean Timsit, who came from France for this exhibit, bringing with him his photographic series from Bhutan of breathtaking art.
Timsit spent 7 months in Bhutan and his images are the product of considerable concept and execution.
He works with a 4x5 film viewfinder camera, taking images in black and white, which he hand-paints with stunning beauty – the way the colors work, and drip into the margins.
The most magnificent,: “From Leonardo da Vinci to Bhutan” is in fact inspired by Da Vinci's painting and utilizes the same composition, a similar color palette and pose. It is meant to show past and present as linked - more similar than different, he said.
He spent days with the men who posed - the image, which was shot six years ago, was finished in 2013.
Another image - of a monk's hands - reminds me of Andrew Wyeth in its realistic detail yet artistry. The monk is dressed in a mustard-yellow colored robe, even though monks typically wear red. But he says that red would have overwhelmed the image - now you focus on the hands and how they are textured. But Timsit, who mixes his own paints, said he wanted just the right yellow.
How does he communicate, he is asked? "Heart, hands," he says gesturing to his heart, and then he adds, oh yes, "a translator."
"Bhutan is a strange country - a population of only 700,000, it has roughly 25 languages which don't understand one another," he says.
Timsit uses a 4x5 viewfinder film camera - he develops, prints, even mixes his own paints.
He says he uses natural light, – but carefully selects – some images took four days before the light was right. "The right fog, the right cloud, for four days I woke before dawn," he says.
He has been working on this series for seven years – and still is not finished.
“My black and white photographs condense and simplify the imagery, toning gives it depth and surprises the eye," he writes. "The combination of these two techniques along with the introduction of oil paints achieve a result that is both magical and unique. They are part of my philosophy and the artistic process that follows… These techniques are here to serve the messenger in expressing the universality of human nature, the serenity of our world and our human lives. When you see some of these images, it is hard to tell whether they are old or new, paintings or photographs, from the west or the east.”
Jude Amsel, gallery curator, knew Timsit from her days teaching in the Loire Valley. "I taught him the hand painting technique. Now he could teach me."
In contrast to Timsit's studied, controlled method using a 4x5 B&W film camera, George Adler described the fortuitous luck in snapping his image, "China Mom 2010" with a digital Panasonic Lumix (with the renowned Leica lens) during a trip through the Far East. “I just met this girl – she seemed so happy. I adored her. The lighting was sheer luck – the right place, right equipment, right lighting."
Another image, "Hookah Smoker," taken in Miami- also captures a moment and shows that artful, soulful images don't always come from exotic locales.
Adler, who retired 14 years ago from a career as a professional engineer and builder (he was the architect for the Great Neck Arts Center) – has spent his time painting, sculpting, photography (georgeadlersart.com).
“Standing on Times Square in New York City with the melody of Ode to Joy blaring in my brain marked the beginning of my new life," he writes. "It was like taking your first breath of fresh air after being suffocated inside an unbreakable box for a long, long time. I had survived Fascism, the Holocaust, the war, Communism and the Hungarian Revolution. Now I was free for the first time in my life.
“The long journey finally led me to the Art Students League. I was free to try every form of creative expression. I experimented. I practiced to improve my skills, and I immersed myself in creative exercises. … No matter how much the chronology continues to advance the versatility of the camera, the art of creating beauty will always rest in the hand that holds it.”
One thing that immediately strikes you about Annalisa Iadicico’s photographs of women in India is how powerfully the images work with the metalwork frames – reclaimed and repurposed and sculpted to the desired shape, in fact an art form itself and why she uses the term “mixed media” to describe her work. These are not frames for a photograph, but an integrated composition.
One composition in particular – the frame is of well used corrugated metal reclaimed from Long Island City – and is like the corrugated metal of the woman’s house in her photo. "The whole thing clicked."
Another image, of a woman, a construction worker, carrying sand used in making cement on her head, which she calls “Madonna con cesto 2013” is looking into the camera, with a very relaxed, settled expression – at ease with her lot and with the photographer.
Annalisa spent days with her subjects and had a connection with them.
Annalisa says she is from a small village near Naples, Italy. “I grew up on a farm – I needed to go back to my roots.”
She spent 2 ½ months in India – saw the women working at the construction site – I talked to her – spending the day with them while they worked. She felt comfortable.
“India was easy to photograph – Morocco was more difficult. This was a small village.”
Robert Scott Ph.D., says, “Faces fascinate me, although at times, I think I have introduced into another’s private space. Art, even if spontaneous graffiti on an abandoned factory wall, can inspire or intrigue or both. In some cases, people are the art…” My favorite of his works in the exhibit is " Chinese Chess, Panjiyuan (Dirt) Market, Beijing, 2012" where he managed to capture a man wearing a traditional warrior outfit, and playing Chinese chess, all in a perfect composition of form, color and texture. It was a chance encounter.
Fran Kaufman – famous for her Jazz photography (in b&w) went to India where color overtook her – the images are vivid, vital, but what gets you are the expressions on the faces of the people she has captured.
“Last year, yearning for color, I made a trip to northern India," Kaufman writes. "It was there that I got more color than I ever expected. Here, in a part of the world where scarcity of the basic needs of life is the norm and the landscape is brown and beige tones, color prevails.
“Because I am incapable of making a photograph that doesn’t include at least one person, I spent my month in Rajhastan, not searching for the perfect image, but looking for people of that region at work and at home, and trying, with my camera, to find some essence of the culture that I encountered.”
Emily S. Corbato displayed images from her series from Cuba taken with B&W film. She traveled to Cuba in 2006, before travel restrictions for Americans were eased (though tourists were coming from Canada and other parts of the world, so Cuba was hardly isolated). She went with the Women Studies Research Center at Brandeis – one of the scholars was an ex-pat. Ten women went, each with a specialty, each with a project - sociologists, doctors. feminists. "Feminists?" I ask, questioning whether Cuba would be pleased to have such independent thought? "Au contraire," she says, "Cuba had no problem. People were open. I could go off alone. We had a lot of freedom."
Orestes Gonzalez has been to 40 countries, but says “Iceland is the country where I felt closest to nature. Nature is so powerful, it overpowers anything man has created.”
Photographing in the famous Blue Lagoon, he used a simple point-and-shoot to gather these images, but lately, he’s been using his smart-phone – “I ditched the camera for the phone – it’s so spontaneous, I can capture the zeitgeist of a city because it is always with me – an extension of my hand."
He adds, “The reason for my images is to transcend the literal and to go further… attempt to capture feelings, emotions and the atmosphere I witness at that particular place, in that particular time.”
Capture the moment, make a connection. Whether by luck, serendipity, or patience and planning, the photographers get close to their subject, get in the middle of the action, and in so doing, show us a different perspective.
"The work on view at the Gold Coast Arts Center, explores contemporary photography's ability to describe and convey a sense of place and those that exists within it" explains gallery curator Jude Amsel, "Whether referencing an immediately identifiable location or one that is conceptual and abstract, each photograph encourages the viewer to contemplate or decipher the physical context in which the picture was taken. The range of participating artists and the diversity of their approaches, reflects the individualist interpretation documenting our cultural diversity".
"Visions of the World" is on exhibit at the Gold Coast Arts Center gallery until July 28.
Then in September15-October 15, Jude Amsel and Orestes Gonzalez will be curating a show of Hispanic art.
The Gold Coast Arts Center is located at 113 Middle Neck Rd in Great Neck, NY. For more information, call 516 829-2570 or visit www.goldcoastarts.org
Karen Rubin, Long Island Eclectic Travel Examiner
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