The Knoxville Show, July 2013

I have been show­ing work in gal­leries since 2000, but almost always in solo exhi­bi­tions. There is a com­fort in the solo show — you know all the work that will be there, you have con­trol over the lay­out and the flow of view. Group shows, in con­trast, have seemed far more ter­ri­fy­ing. What if my work is the worst? What if my work is great but stuck in a dim cor­ner by the trash cans? Many vari­ables, lit­tle control.

Although my child isn’t old enough to go to school, I envi­sion the process of drop­ping him off on the first day of school and then pick­ing up after to be sim­i­lar to the process of a group show. When I dropped off my work, I got a quick glimpse of the oth­er pieces but no real time too con­sid­er them and see if they will mesh well with my work. Will there be fun? Will friends be made? And then when the open­ing exhi­bi­tion comes around, it is time to see how the pieces all came togeth­er. Is your work a good fit, part of the com­mu­ni­ty? Does it stand out (in an encour­ag­ing or dis­tract­ing way?) Will there be tears or laugh­ter in the reception?

Of course, for every solo oppor­tu­ni­ty, there are ten or twen­ty (or a hun­dred) group shows call­ing for artists. And since I’d always rather my work be shown to the pub­lic than stacked in my stu­dio, I have been apply­ing dili­gent­ly for exhi­bi­tions. And ear­li­er this sum­mer I had the oppor­tu­ni­ty to be part of a group show in Knoxville. Below is a pho­to I made of my sub­mit­ted print with a lit­tle con­text of place­ment and sur­round­ing pieces.

Work at Emporium, Knoxville July 2013

Work at Empo­ri­um, Knoxville July 2013

First off, I have to share that I did­n’t win any of the eli­gi­ble prizes (Best in Trav­el cat­e­go­ry, Best of Show) but the pieces that did win were exquis­ite. I was very hap­py with the results of the juried com­pe­ti­tion. The win­ning pieces in my cat­e­gories were well com­posed, well exe­cut­ed and well print­ed. Kudos to them.

That said, the biggest sur­prise was the crowd. It was a well attend­ed event (maybe two or three hun­dred atten­dees?) and my work had a fair amount of atten­tion. At least some of it was com­men­tary along the lines of “It’s just a bath­room cab­i­net, I could have done that” — which is admit­ted­ly some of the most qui­et­ly grat­i­fy­ing crit­i­cism out there. But I did over­hear some praise for the col­or rep­re­sen­ta­tion and detail to the tex­ture and form of the sub­ject. An expect­ed mix.

Of those whose work as in the show, I’d say that forty of the fifty rep­re­sent­ed artists attend­ed the open­ing. And that is where I heard the most sur­pris­ing com­men­tary. The grip­ing from the pho­tog­ra­phers around the Best of Show piece — Som­merville #84 on the artist’s web­site — was astound­ing. “It’s just a bunch of black with a build­ing” or “Who cares about an auto shop” or “It is so bor­ing” …I sup­pose I should not have been sur­prised, but I def­i­nite­ly was dis­ap­point­ed. One artist on the street was telling oth­ers walk­ing in “Don’t both­er, they chose a stu­pid pho­to for the win­ner.” So, so sad that appre­ci­a­tion of work passed by for so many people.

All that said, I was def­i­nite­ly glad I sub­mit­ted and went to the exhi­bi­tion. It was a good excuse to get to Knoxville and check out down­town, make con­nec­tions with a few oth­er artists, and see how my work looked hung and in con­text of oth­er artists and their photography.

Thanks to the Empo­ri­um in Knoxville and the Knoxville Arts & Cul­ture Alliance for host­ing the show. It was great fun, and I was hon­ored to be a part of the exhibition.

Photo Exploration: Self Portrait, Shadow and Playground

Tak­ing self por­traits are one of the most mis­er­able expe­ri­ences I can envi­sion with a cam­era. I don’t nec­es­sar­i­ly mind hav­ing my pho­to made (although that isn’t my favorite) but being both the oper­a­tor and sub­ject ranks down there with shoot­ing an out­side, night­time wed­ding in sleet and snow.

How­ev­er, that mea­sure of pref­er­ence is a clear indi­ca­tor that I need to work on that very thing I dis­like. I think there are numer­ous ben­e­fits to push­ing the com­fort lev­el — it helps me grow from dis­dain to accep­tance to enjoy­ment of a par­tic­u­lar activ­i­ty. Addi­tion­al­ly, it helps me (the pho­tog­ra­ph­er) talk and com­mu­ni­cate with me (the sub­ject), which in turn strength­ens my skills for com­mu­ni­ca­tion with oth­er subjects.

While out with my son (who, by the way, wants to have his pho­to made as often as pos­si­ble — must get it from his mom) I was work­ing with pho­tograph­ing the forms of play­ground equip­ment. The wood and steel, plas­tic and rub­ber, all com­posed for a max­i­mum of fun and a min­i­mum of harm. Tru­ly form fol­low­ing func­tion. The remark­able shad­ows cast were end­less­ly fas­ci­nat­ing, and in one of them I saw my shad­ow acci­den­tal­ly creep into frame. Inspi­ra­tion hot, and real­iz­ing that I could take a self por­trait with­out the has­sle of a self-timer, tri­pod, walk­ing back and forth to review, etc, I made the pho­to below.

selfportrait-sandshadow-june2013-wesleyduffeebraun

I have been car­ry­ing my Fuji x100 around more and more, espe­cial­ly when out with fam­i­ly. This portable par­ty of a cam­era has opened up pre­vi­ous­ly unavail­able sub­jects and ses­sions by mere­ly being avail­able. I still love shoot­ing film on loca­tion, and my dig­i­tal SLR’s most def­i­nite­ly have a place in my work­flows. But for the dai­ly fun of find­ing oppor­tu­ni­ty the x100 is unbeat­able in my toolk­it. Not least because of the built-in emul­sions — Velvia, Provia and Astia. Addi­tion­al­ly, the black and white emul­sion is remark­able in clar­i­ty and tonal­i­ty. I have spent entire ses­sions entranced with the beau­ti­ful ren­der­ings pro­duced in cam­era. Although this day was beau­ti­ful with blue skies, yel­low play­ground sand and red struc­tures, work­ing in black and white gave the strongest rep­re­sen­ta­tion of the day.

While it isn’t the most inspi­ra­tional self por­trait ever made, I think it speaks to a lit­tle of my style and desire as a pho­tog­ra­ph­er. A lit­tle slouch, not so much to appear cool and col­lect­ed, but rather to steady against the upright bars. Find­ing a way to keep the fore­ground and back­ground in mod­er­ate bal­ance across the frame. Aim­ing to keep the tex­ture of all mate­r­i­al present. Those points are part of my process and part of my pro­duced work. Is that not what a por­trait is about?

Raleigh Downtown, March 2013 (Part 2)

Raleigh down­town, addi­tion­al frames from this ses­sion. 120 Acros 100 in Mamiya 645 Pro TL

Photo Exploration: Jael and Sisera

Dur­ing our Octo­ber 2012 trip to Rome, I was might­i­ly inspired by the depic­tions of Bib­li­cal* sto­ries. I was tak­en with the incred­i­ble pieces of art that real­ly were telling the sto­ry with­out evan­ge­liz­ing. Or, at least, with­out being hell­bathedinthe­blood­oftherisen­lamb­fire evan­gel­i­cal. The beau­ti­ful imagery spoke of the immense pow­er of storytelling.

Grow­ing up in the south­ern Unit­ed States, there were end­less expe­ri­ences with Chris­tian­i­ty and Chris­tians, many of them pos­i­tive. How­ev­er, it was a rare time when the sto­ries told were told sim­ply for the enjoy­ment of the tale. All too often the com­plex­i­ty and won­der of tapes­try found in scrip­ture is lost because at the end of it, you know that you’ll get a bit of pros­e­ly­tiz­ing and maybe some guilt trip­ping. So when I returned, I decid­ed to use a new medi­um (rel­a­tive to oth­er art forms) to share my own vision of Bib­li­cal sto­ries. Maybe some that are famil­iar, maybe some that aren’t, but all of which pro­vide a small brick of the foun­da­tion of the Chris­t­ian faith.

The first was the sto­ry of Jael (Judges 5:26) who took in an ene­my gen­er­al and then slew him in a fair­ly grue­some man­ner. She is held up as one of the great women of the Old Tes­ta­ment, although not near­ly men­tioned today as often as Ruth, Esther, Sarah or oth­ers. I like her strength, her intel­li­gence and her abil­i­ty to change the tides of his­to­ry with one deci­sive move­ment. And that moment is what I pho­tographed in the scene below.

Jael & Sisera

Jael & Sisera

I hope to fol­low this with many oth­ers of scenes from the Old and New Tes­ta­ments. Con­tin­u­ing to tell the nar­ra­tive on its own, with­out any pre­tense except to share the myth itself.


* Yes, I recognize that a great deal of “Biblical” stories are re-tellings of even older stories, or conglomerations of multiple stories from multiple traditions, but it gets the point across.