Photographic technology is developing faster than a bacteria colony in a petri dish. Hand-held flashes now mate with high-resolution digital cameras while computer software allows us to manipulate images into anything the mind conjures. But for Nat Trotman, curator of Barrett Art Center’s 23rd national juried exhibition “Photowork ’10,” the images were not judged on what contemporary category they should be assigned to, critiqued on, or marveled over. Trotman judged, instead, their ability to affect emotion. When presented with nearly 1,000 photographs, Trotman, who’s also associate curator at the Guggenheim Museum, selected 60. “It was done very instinctually. The theme grew out of the works submitted. A lot had a forlorn quality. Not sad, exactly, but a sense of melancholy that I’m admittedly into,” says Trotman. At the Guggenheim currently is an exhibition Trotman curated which dovetails with “Photowork ’10.” “Haunted” documents the contemporary obsession with accessing the past through photographic technique and subject matter. Out of a wide array of topics, Trotman chose to narrow his focus to portraiture and architecture for “Photowork ’10.”
Trotman chose many images of abandoned spaces. Trotman explains that he was drawn to a photograph’s “particular mood.” One photographer, Shannon Kolvitz of Baton Rouge, received an honorable mention in the show, for capturing the symmetrical image of two houses at night. The photo carries the staged warmth of a set. The windows on one house are boarded up, and on the other, flags wave aimlessly above a bright porch light, as if, in some sudden abandonment, its inhabitants vanished. David H. Curtis’s Underground captures a blurry figure walking either into or out of the frame in a below-ground tunnel system; the yellow tones give it a septic atmosphere. In Jesse Aldere’s Cold Climate, a faded glimpse of a gas station parking lot overlays a mist-filled forest like a Stephen King novel is about to unfold. “These pictures really make you think. It’s a darker and deeper show than some,” says Laurie Clark, the exhibition director. Michael Sibilia from Hopewell Junction caught two figures on opposite corners of a cobblestone road in a noirish scene. The buildings surrounding them have barred windows and the sticky feel of heat permeates their expressions. The image, Sin Titulo, was awarded first place in the exhibition.
An interesting by-product of the anonymous judging by Trotman: A few of the artists have multiple works in the show (there are 60 photographs and 50 photographers). By chance, 15 of the photographers are local, including Kelly Merchant of High Falls and Mark Lyon of Marlboro (whose work is featured on the cover of this issue).
“Photowork ’10” will be displayed at the Barrett Art Center through May 15. On the upper level of BAC there will also be featured work by the former Photography Critique Seminar Group. Running parallel to these exhibits, the Mill Street Loft will have two showings: the seventh annual Exposure Exhibition, featuring regional high school students, and “Twisted Photos,” showcasing works by former Mill Street Loft alumni. All exhibitions will have opening receptions on April 17. “Photowork ’10” will run from 4pm to 6pm and Mill Street Loft’s will begin at 5:30pm. (845) 471-2550; www.barrettartcenter.org; www.millstreetloft.org.