Archive for March, 2013

A Trip to the Charleston Center for Photography in Charleston, SC, for Kevin Parent’s Lecture on Pinhole Photography

Tuesday, March 12th, 2013

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On Monday, March 11, 2013, Linda and I went down the road to Charleston, SC, to attend a lecture on pinhole photography by Kevin Parent at the Charleston Center for Photography at 654 King Street for their 2nd Monday Lecture Series. It’s free and open to the public and unknown to us they hand out tickets and hold a raffle for photography swag after the lecture, but no one was there for the swag.

Wikipedia describes a pinhole camera as: A pinhole camera is a simple camera without a lens and with a single small aperture (a pin hole in the box) – effectively a light-proof box with a small hole in one side. Light from a scene passes through this single point and projects an inverted image on the opposite side of the box (w/film or photo paper inside). The human eye in bright light acts similarly, as do cameras using small apertures.

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They had a pretty big crowd there, bigger than I expected, bigger than most lectures I’ve attended at some bigger institutions. Photography by nature is a loner sport, but photographers are also very social when it comes to talking about photography.

Why were we there? Good question. Did Linda or I have interest in taking up pinhole photography? Was it because of our standing in the Charleston photography community? We came for support of the speaker.

I’ve known Parent since the days when I delivered our printed paper to Carolina Fine Paintings & Prints on King Street, where he had a job as a framer – back in the day. Our connection was that we were old schoolers – as far as photography goes. But at that time Linda and I were well out of photography. Not many people in Charleston today know our photography background – we have no standing. I’ve run into Parent at photography exhibits and shared photography related info on Facebook. He’s active – we’re not. We now have an arts newspaper or it has us.

I’m reminded of how removed we are from photography as I reach down to the bottom drawer of my desk and pull out a roll of Ilford FP4 120 film with an expiration date of June 1990 and I no longer have a camera that uses 120 film – haven’t for almost 30 years. In that drawer is also the last “real” camera I own – a Nikon Nikkormat EL – which has a good layer of dust on it. There is also a roll of Kodachrome 64 with a date of 1999 that I’m holding for singer Paul Simon. I also have a drawer of about a half dozen digital cameras – one that stores the images on a floppy disk.

But, way back in the day – before our lives as publishers of an arts newspaper, Linda and I ran a custom black and white photo processing lab – IF Labs – the best in Charleston at the time, if I say so myself. Linda was a master printer and I was a wiz with film developing. But today, there are no signs of chemical stains on our fingers.

So we went to this lecture to support a fellow old schooler who is still doing it – the real old fashioned way. And, I don’t just give credit to anyone who boast that they are “special” because they are using film and photo paper processed in a darkroom. I’ve got no problem with digital photography, but I still judge all photography by the final product. I really don’t care how the photographer gets there – the image is still the thing. And there are still a lot of bad photographer out there, along with a lot of skilled technicians who are making ho hum images. Parent isn’t one of them. I don’t like all his images, but after last night’s lecture I respect all those – so much more – that speak to me, after learning how much he’s flying by the seat of his pants in capturing his images. Hey, here’s a news flash – this isn’t just a problem for photography. The art world is full of artists who are not yet at the top of their game. Some might get there some day – some never will.

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Kevin Parent with some of his pinhole cameras

Throw in the fact that Parent makes his own cameras and you really wonder why someone still puts themselves through this old school process, but Parent explained all that in his presentation. It’s an emotional thing for him. And, you can’t beat the cost of the camera – which he makes out of just about anything.

He did say one thing that I had to differ with. It’s not that I disagree with what he said, I just see it differently. At one point he said that pinhole photography is the only way to stop nature and capture it in an image. You can’t do it with a shutter speed of 1/500th of a second, but I think he was referring to the fact that pinhole photography slows the photographer down, due to the nature that you have only a few shots and without a viewfinder to actually see what you are trying to capture – you really have to slow down and think about what you’re doing or trying to do. Where with today’s digital cameras you can just shoot away hoping you get something from volume – as you’re not burning up expensive film anymore. And, you can just delete what you don’t want – on the spot and shoot again and again or slip another memory disk into the camera. That might work in sports photography.

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I think the technology of stop-action and high speed photography has really stopped nature – giving us a chance to see the unseeable with our human eyes. Think tiny tree frog in the Amazon jumping from one leaf to another and the camera catching it in mid-jump. Now that’s stopping nature. I prefer to think that what he meant was that pinhole photography stops nature – in motion – due to the long exposures (time the pinhole is uncovered). And, it’s a good thing that it slows the photographer down and makes them think about what they are doing. Slowing our lives down gives us a better view of nature or something like that. Let’s all break into small groups and discuss that.

Of course I had the advantage of a hour and a half ride home to come up with that and I wasn’t standing in front of an audience. It’s a point the two of us could talk about for hours and I could be wrong. It wouldn’t be the first time I missed the point – as Linda tells me often enough.

But, that’s the value of going to an artist’s lecture. You get to hear what they are trying to do, what’s in their head and how they feel about the work they produce. It’s a lot better than standing in front of an image and just trying to figure things out or reading a page or two about what the artist meant to do in presenting their image. Or, the artist who says it’s all up to the individual viewer – it’s what it means to the viewer – that’s all they care about. That’s true, but that’s just as bad as the people trying to figure out what the Beatles meant by every word they wrote – even playing songs backwards to find the “true” meaning of their songs. I prefer William Halsey’s (one of Charleston’s best artists) answer when asked by viewers what he meant by his paintings – “What does it mean?” – “it means I finished!” But, it’s not that simple either. A lecture gets you a little closer to your understanding if the artists was successful in their goals – if they had any to begin with. It’s one more step in the process of understanding. Or you could just go with the process of deciding if you just like something or not. Oh my head is beginning to hurt. Art speak will get you every time.

The Charleston Center for Photography will have a small exhibit of Parent’s works up on view through the end of the month. You can also see his work at the Corrigan Gallery on Queen Street in downtown Charleston and on his website at (www.kevinbruceparent.com).

Parent will also conduct a workshop on pinhole photography later this month. For info call the Charleston Center for Photography at 843/720-3105.

The next 2nd Monday Lecture Series will take place at 7pm on April 8, 2013, and be presented by Stephanie Coakley. Check the Center for details.

A Trip to Visit Riverbanks Zoo in Columbia, SC, and See Some Art Too

Tuesday, March 5th, 2013

Our grandchild turned three at the end of February and after we finished the launch of the March 2013 issue of Carolina Arts, which can be downloaded at (http://www.carolinaarts.com/313/313carolinaarts.pdf), the family “packed” themselves into our car and headed to the Riverbanks Zoo in Columbia, SC. I was also hoping to see a few exhibits there – if we finished the zoo in time to see anything. I was hopeful.

The zoo experience finished around 4pm and once we got “packed” back into the car, Linda checked her copy of Carolina Arts on her iPhone and we headed to 701 Center for Contemporary Art which was open on Saturdays until 5pm.

It’s not too far from the zoo over to Whaley Street so we arrived about 4:20pm, but when we got there the gallery was closed. The current exhibit, Stephen Hayes: Cash Crop, has been extended to Mar. 31, 2013, so there is still a chance we might see it. The good thing was that a good part of the entrance to the gallery is glass – so those in our party got to see a good bit of the exhibit and it might have been a good thing since we had a 3 year old with us that we couldn’t get closer. There’s a lot of stuff to touch in this exhibit and that could have been a disaster.

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detail of one of the works in Cash Crop

At the core of the exhibit are 15 life-size sculptures of shackled people placed in boat- or coffin-like structures, with diagrams of captive, warehoused humans in Trans-Atlantic slave ships carved in wood on the back. The sculptures represent, Hayes says, “the 15 million human beings kidnapped and transported by sea during the Trans-Atlantic slave trade.”

I’ve seen the exhibit before at Guilford College in Greensboro, NC, but each presentation of the exhibit is different depending on the venue it is being presented in, plus no matter where it is presented it’s a powerful and moving presentation of a slice of our country’s history that shouldn’t be forgotten.

We did get to see an exhibit of works by Jame Lathren, entitled the space between time, in the Hallway Gallery at 701. The exhibit of wax paintings will be up through Mar. 15. I’m not sure why we don’t get notice of these exhibits in this space from 701, but I hope they start coming to us so we can let people know what they might get to see there too.

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Work by Jame Lathren

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Work by Jame Lathren

So now what? Our check of Columbia galleries had told us most everywhere else we wanted to go was already closed. Except there might be a chance that someone was still over at Vista Studios keeping the doors open for the exhibit at Gallery 80808, New Work…The Natural Evolution of Six Artists and a Mountain Retreat, on view through Mar. 11, 2013. Exhibits that are presented by renters of the space are often manned longer than posted times.

It’s a good thing Vista Studios is not far from 701 Center for Contemporary Art. We got there just before 5pm. I saw the sandwich board still out front and lights were still on so we got inside and Jan Swanson, who was still on duty, was gracious enough to stay a little longer to give us a quick look at the exhibit.

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The exhibit is just one of the results of Eileen Blyth, Brucie Holler, Louanne LaRoche, Laurie McIntosh, Lynn Parrott and Jan Swanson, three artists from the Columbia area and three from the Hilton Head area, spending a week in the mountains of North Carolina creating and sharing their love of art. They’ve done this for eight years and are still talking to each other – just kidding.

Some of the works were created during those trips. I did a quick look around and snapped a few photos with my iPhone and the others in our party ran interference with the 3 year old. We didn’t stay long, I didn’t want to hold anyone up with their plans for a Saturday night, but it doesn’t take me long, after all these years, to see this was a fantastic show offering quite a variety of works in various media from a talented group of artists. I knew the work of some of the artists, but there were many surprises.

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Folks in the Columbia area need to get out and see this exhibit – it’s going to be up through Mar. 11, giving you another weekend opportunity and for folks in the Hilton Head area, the exhibit will soon be on view at Camellia Art gallery on Hilton Head Island, from Mar. 22 – Apr. 13, 2013.

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A sculpture by Eileen Blyth. I’ve seen her paintings but this was the first time I’ve seen her sculptures.

I can’t go into too much about individual works, but I have one last thing to say about our visit there. I was just about ready to leave as I knew everyone was ready to go home after a long day and still with two hours to go in the “packed” car, I saw my son chasing the wild boy down the entrance hallway to the gallery yelling Grandpa! Grandpa! When they reached me I asked the young man which piece of art he liked best.

After a few moments of registering what I was asking him – he ran around the corner from where we were standing and pointed to works by Jan Swanson. I was amazed and very pleased and thought – have I found my successor to the helm of Carolina Arts? Instead of just pointing to the art in front of him he returned to a place he had stood in front of a good 15 minutes ago and pointed out the work of the artist standing with us. Now that’s a future editor of an arts newspaper. It might of had something to do with the fact that 15 minutes earlier we had to haul him off from touching those same works, but we’ll never know. It was a special moment.

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Four works by Jan Swanson on the right – the favorite of a 3 year old on this day.

You can read all about this exhibit and the history of the group on Page 12 & 13 of our February 2013 issue of Carolina Arts, which you can download at this link (http://www.carolinaarts.com/213/213carolinaarts.pdf).

The March 2013 Issue of Carolina Arts is Now Ready to Download

Friday, March 1st, 2013

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The March 2013 issue of Carolina Arts is up on our website at (www.carolinaarts.com) – all 80 pages of it. We made it before the armageddon of Sequestration takes place. That’s 8 pages more than last year’s March issue – a good sign of growth.

We ask that you help us bring the news about the Carolina visual art community to others by spreading the link for the download around to your e-mail lists and posting it on your Facebook page. Once people see all that is going on in the visual art community they will spread it around to their lists and on their Facebook pages. We started using Twitter so you can find us at (http://twitter.com/carolinaarts/). Follow us and retweet our postings.

The link is: (http://www.carolinaarts.com/313/313carolinaarts.pdf).

If you would like to get direct notice that our latest issue is ready to be downloaded you can send us an e-mail to (info@carolinaarts.com) to be placed on our mailing list.

So download that PDF and dig in – it makes for good reading and shows that you have lots of opportunities to enjoy the visual arts in the Carolinas. And, don’t forget to find a way to thank our advertisers – they make the paper possible.

Thanks – Tom and Linda Starland
Carolina Arts
843/825-3408
info@carolinaarts.com