Photo Stories: Michael Itkoff, Juror
The Rhode Island Center for Photographic Arts presents ten projects, as selected by Michael Itkoff. Co-founder of both Fabl and Daylight Books. The exhibition, Photo Stories explores photography as a storytelling medium, presenting ideas and concepts that can not easily be represented in a single image. The projects included present stories told visually by photographers who explore often deeply personal journeys.
The exhibition features photography by: Bob Avakian, Richard Greene, Anna Grevenitis, Emily Hamilton Laux, Rebecca Moseman, Nancy Nolan, Michael Parvin, Leah Schretenthaler, Stephanie Taiber & Lizzy Wallen.
Exhibition: June 20th, 2019 – July 12, 2019
Opening Reception: June 20th 5:00 – 9:00pm
Gallery Hours: Thursday 1-4, Friday + Saturday 1:00 – 6:00pm
Workshop: July 13th, 2019 10:00 – 4:00 p.m. https://www.riphotocenter.org/photo-books-story-telling-with-michael-itkoff/
Bob Avakian: MENEMSHA AT NIGHT
Located in the town of Chilmark on Martha’s Vineyard is a small fishing village called Menemsha. It is homeport to local fisherman, some of whom are from families that have fished there for generations. During the summer months, Menemsha is intensely busy. Residents and tourists come to walk the boardwalks, get freshly cooked seafood and watch the fishing boats come in and out. At the end of the day, weather permitting; come the most dramatic sunsets.
Once the summer residents return to their winter homes and day tripping tourists cease to visit, the spirit of this historic fishing village reappears. When I am there in the dark hours, I feel like I have the whole place to myself. I never know which lights will be shining or what they will illuminate. It’s a joy full surprise when there is magic in the air and if the fog is in, well, that is a total bonus. I feel like I’ve come to a different place and I soon get lost to the moment as I wander in search of that spot where the light is in perfect balance with land, sea and sky. My exposure and post processing decisions help me to create these images that I consider a view to an altered reality, a glimpse into a vision you can otherwise not experience.
Los Angeles, CA
This series depicts and memorializes the fleeting and often temporary shopfronts and display windows of Psychic Palm Readers and Fortune Tellers in the greater Los Angels area. In the dark night glow after the sun goes down these shops vibrate with life. Their brightly lit storefronts share a language in common, attracting like moths those hopefuls looking for magical answers to impossible questions. These storefront designs have become an outsider form of art with its own unique vocabulary.
Anna Grevenitis: regard
“regard” / . a / verb 1. consider or think of (someone or something) in a specified way.
When my daughter was born fourteen years ago, I was told that she had the “physical markers” for Down syndrome. A few days later, the diagnosis of trisomy 21 was confirmed with a simple blood test. Today Luigia is a thriving and lively teenager, yet these “markers” have grown with her, and her disability remains visible to the outside world. As we try to go about our ordinary lives in our community–getting ice cream after school, going grocery shopping or walking to the local library–I often catch people staring, gawking, or side-glancing at her, at us. Even though their gaze feels invasive, I perceive it as more questioning than judging, at least most of the time. With this on-going series “regard,” I am answering their question with a window into our reality. To emphasize control over my message, these everyday tableaux are meticulously set, lit up, and purposefully developed in black and white. Their composition expresses routine acts in which I address the viewers directly: look at us bathing; look at us grooming; here we are at bedtime; this is us on a random day at the beach. In each scene, the viewers are plunged into the outside perspective. At first glance, it may seem that I am offering us as vulnerable prey to their judgement, yet in fact I am guarding our lives, and the viewers are caught gawking–my direct gaze at the camera. Through the direct, return gaze, I am the one in control as I establish a relationship with the viewers, and their motive is questioned. In “regard” I strive to claim the normalcy of Luigia’s life, one image at a time.
Emily Hamilton Laux: Going to Mars
Two years ago, I rented a house in Florida, and my father stayed with me. My father is a graduate of Amherst and Harvard, a man whose remarkable career touched many lives. And he has Alzheimer’s.
Going to Mars refers to a National Geographic story I read to my father night after night; it is also a personal metaphor for this time we spent together.
As I looked after my father, I saw how his mind had changed, like a map being gradually erased. I wanted to know how he navigates the new world around him — and the alien world inside his head. With my camera, I imagined what it was like to forget, to be confused, to be blank, and yet utterly in the present moment. I also imagined and hoped that this new world contained fragments of wonder and beauty.
Irish Travelers are a proud and reclusive people, maintaining a culture and traditions whose origins are lost in time. In the fall of 2017 and 2018, I had the opportunity to be among them under the supervision of a fellow photographer who provided access to their world and allowed me to photograph their lives.
This series of images reflects my personal interactions with the Travelers I was fortunate to connect with at the Ballinasloe Horse Fair, various halting sites, and illegal encampments throughout County Galway and Limerick.
Nancy Nolan: Park’s Pants
Little Rock, AR
Park’s Pants grew out of my complete wonder, love and awe for my son Park. It began with the pregnancy. There were complications, and his birth was difficult for both of us. Confined to a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), I sat at my tiny son’s side for two excruciating months. I couldn’t take my eyes off of him.
His fight for life inspired me, and I soon realized I needed to document his journey, both for myself and for him.
I’m not a writer-I’m a visual person. So, I chose to do this without words. I decided to make a series of images, one each year. I felt there needed to be some constant in each image, and I wanted it to have some significance, so I decided on a pair of jeans that belonged to his father-a pair of Levi’s that at first swallowed him up and that he would one day grow into.
My medium is photography, and my method was born out of my need to document Park. I promised myself I would not control the shoots-I would not control Park. Whatever happened, happened. There would be no judgment of myself or of my son in the work. Not wanting the distraction of color, I photographed in black & white. And, wishing for the quiet, slow pace of introspection I chose to shoot with large format cameras.
Over the years-as my son has grown-this project has taken on unexpected depth and complexity. I acted on instinct when I began the series and later came to realize my own relationship with this process was apparent in the images.
I wanted to record and explore this life that Park fought so hard for. And, we did it together. This unsuspecting child who gave so much of himself to the project rarely complained about putting those jeans on year after year for his mother.
He is nineteen now. The jeans, once enveloping him like the sea, are now snug. It’s a natural ending, but also just the beginning.
Michael Parvin: Objects Once Familiar
Our pasts are populated by memories of people, lovable or despicable, events, both joyous and cringe-worthy and objects, whether cherished or mundane. It’s this latter category of everyday objects that were once commonplace but now, no longer part of our daily lives, which serves as the raison d’etre for this collection of photographs.
There are a variety of ways to consider the exposition of objects presented in this collection. For some viewers, these images will serve as reminders of the accelerating pace of technology: smaller, lighter and faster– with fewer dials and no tethering cords. Others may ascribe to them more wistful sentiments, thinking about a time and place that-at least through the gauzy veil of memory-seemed to be simpler and less ridden with ambiguity and conflict. And harsh as it may sound, there will be those viewers who react to images of objects now obsolete as a kind of memento mori, a reminder that all physicality occupies a limited time and space.
But there is another framework that should be considered as a perspective for viewing these objects. One that does not dwell solely on function, thus minimizing considerations of age and utility, but instead urges the viewer to appreciate the beauty of line and form. Through the artful use of light, shadow and perspective, these objects become newly resurrected into strong images transcending time and place. They are to be appreciated not just for the recollections that they may trigger but also because they are objects with inherent aesthetic value.
The land of Hawaii is vast, luxurious, and idyllic but past the wanderlust images the land is very controversial. The growing population and tourism continues to threaten the space and its ability to accommodate all the occupants. From the research telescopes on the mountain of Maunakea on the Big Island, to the crumbling rail project on Oahu believed to fix the traffic problem, these infrastructures have augmented the land. The industrial growth happening in Hawaii goes beyond simply manipulating the landscape; it destroys the historical records and spiritual places that have existed there for millions of years.
Through these photographs the attention focuses on the spaces that these infrastructures impede on the natural environment, instead of colors of the idyllic Hawaii. Using silver gelatin prints which consist of selected, man made spaces that have attempted to be removed create a burnt and sometimes empty area. The use of a laser cutter to cut the structure from the landscape leaves scar upon the image. The removed spaces aid in seeing what Hawaii would be like without these impositions. These areas that have been removed from the images are not being replaced with anything, therefore communicates the natural impingement this structure has on the environment even if it were to be removed. However, in the process of trying to remove these objects has weakened the paper and metaphorically weakened the landscape it is trying to depict. The areas that have not been completely removed leaves a faint and thin layer of paper residue. The structures still exist and can never be completely erased. However, it draws attention to what is becoming the built environment in Hawaii.
These invasive infrastructures have impinged on the natural environment. Although these images discuss visually the reality of Hawaii, it brings to light that this is not a one state problem. Much like the invasive species that we eradicate from our gardens and fields, so to should we approach these human invasions onto the landscape. No longer should humanity build for the sake of building; but should instead question the social and political concerns that exist in the natural world.
Stephanie Taiber: Natural Order
In Natural Order I explore the relationship between family dynamics, natural forces, and entropy. I construct images that build a connection between an inherited family archive and the contemporary photograph as object in order to better understand the processes of love and loss and to call attention to the problematic nature of photography as a means of documenting both time and memory.
I see the delicate nature of attachment within and across generations of family as tested not only through the irrevocable reality of death, but also through the inevitable experience of growing apart. The resulting tension I feel around balancing the different roles of daughter, wife, and mother guides my understanding of both togetherness and separation within the everyday intimacies of familial life. I use objects which assume fragments of memory along with rephotographed works that together highlight gestures indicative of the changing nature of connection. In this way, I build a collection of contemporary imagery rather than traditional family portraits. Treating old and new images as artifacts I create a family album unbound, suggesting that the dynamics of relationships are subject to the laws and forces of nature, forming and eroding over time and under circumstance.
Lizzy Wallen: Natural Order
This series is meant to bring awareness to phobias. Many people do not realize that having a phobia can actually cause anxiety or panic attacks. Certain phobias are seen as ridiculous or petty while the ones afraid are truly suffering. I would like for the viewers to really look at these photos and think about what someone with these fears might think or feel. This is why I chose a surrealistic approach in order to portray the feelings of fear, anxiety, being overwhelmed, wanting to get away, or any other feeling that someone might have during this experience. These images are a distortion of reality, which will force the viewer to look at the image multiple times and try to decipher what is going on.
I was strongly inspired by old black and white horror films, such as Robert Wise’s The Haunting (1963), due to their ability to allow the viewer to use their imaginations and, in a sense, create their own fear. There is something that lurks in the shadows of the deep blacks that we cannot see. The lack of color gets rid of the true nature and therefore allows the viewer to imagine what is going on. The creation of the viewer’s own fear produces a higher level of discomfort compared to fear being laid out in the open for them. This is why I chose to use black and white photos. The phobias are printed large while the self-portrait, displayed in the middle, is printed much smaller. This shows how small phobias can make people feel. I chose to put myself in the middle, surrounded by the phobias, in order to have them really close in on the self-portrait. My overall goal is to make the viewers feel uncomfortable and therefore more aware of phobias and the emotions they can induce.
Exhibition: Thursday, June 20th, thru Friday, July 12th, 2019
Reception and Awards: June 20th, 2019 5:00 – 9:00 p.m.
Workshop: July 13th, 2019 10:00 – 4:00 p.m. https://www.riphotocenter.org/photo-books-story-telling-with-michael-itkoff/
Juror: Michael Itkoff, Michael is an artist and Co-founder of both Fabl and Daylight Books a non-profit organization dedicated to publishing art and photography books. For over a decade, Daylight has been dedicated to publishing art and photography via its print and digital publishing programs. By exploring the documentary mode along with the more conceptual concerns of fine-art, Daylight’s uniquely collectible publications work to revitalize the relationship between art, photography, and the world-at-large.
Michael has been deeply involved in the publishing industry in both print and digital media and he has written for the NYTimes Lens blog, Art Asia Pacific, Nueva Luz, Conscientious blog and the Forward. Before starting Daylight, Michael interned at the Annie Leibovitz Studio and Aperture Foundation among others and worked at Rizzoli International Publications. His monograph, ‘Street Portraits’, was published by Charta Editions in 2009. Michael received his BA from Sarah Lawrence College and his MFA from ICP/Bard College.
The Rhode Island Center for Photographic Arts, RICPA
Located in the heart of Providence, RICPA was founded to inspire creative development and provide opportunities to engage with the community through exhibitions, education, publication, and mutual support.
RICPA exists to create a diverse and supportive community for individuals interested in learning or working in Photographic Arts. We strive to provide an environment conducive to the free exchange of ideas in an open and cooperative space. Members should share a passion for creating, appreciating, or learning about all forms of photo-based media. We work to provide a platform for artistic expression, that fosters dialogue and drives innovation in the photographic arts.
The Gallery at the Rhode Island Center for Photographic Arts is a member of Gallery Night Providence.