Tag Archives: Photography Exhibition

From The Director: Into the Unknown, Overlooked, and Unfamiliar

The three bodies of work presented in this exhibition are entirely different. Jasna Bogdanovska, Harry Littell, and Nigel Maister have each explored specific concepts through their imagery. Some are abstracted views of reality while others are a document of a specific time and place.

During the installation process of Unknown, Overlooked, and Unfamiliar

During the installation process of Unknown, Overlooked, and Unfamiliar

Although each body of work is different, there is an overlap between them and a connection from one idea to the next. The name of the show Unknown, Overlooked, and Unfamiliar comes from my thinking about each of the artists and distilling their ideas surrounding the work into one word.

The Liminal #31 and #32 by Nigel Maister

The Liminal #31 and #32 by Nigel Maister

Unknown pertains to Nigel’s work and the way that he is investigating the relationship between the real and the imagined. He is using abstracted views of branches, leaves, and other flora as a way to depict the unseen. By pushing the values and colors of his images taken in the dark of night, he creates new worlds that are neither completely real nor entirely a figment of his imagination. The Liminal #31 and #32, part of a larger series (The Liminal) show two sides of his intentions. Both of these images may exist in a dream but one is more like an overload of saturation and visual stimulation, while the other could be a foreboding scene from a nightmare. The push and pull between being overstated and understated is one of the interesting things about the series as a whole and it makes for a varied experience when taking in the exhibition.

Farm drainage tile, Romulus by Harry Littell

Farm drainage tile, Romulus by Harry Littell

Overlooked came to mind when thinking about Harry’s project. He is investigating the upstate NY landscape and the small towns that we live in, drive through, or remember from years past. His photographs sometimes document a rather lifeless subject in a way that brings a depth of possible meaning or emotion. In Farm drainage tile (Romulus), a simple bundle of drainage tile sitting in a field becomes many things all at once. It is a monolithic structure, it is a stand-in for a large bale of hay typically seen in a field, and it is also waiting to go in the ground for its intended purpose. Without Harry finding beauty or an interest in this image, we may have just driven by and not paid any attention.

"Palimpsest" by Jasna Bogdanovska

“Palimpsest” by Jasna Bogdanovska

Unfamiliar connects to something in Jasna’s images. She is investigating her own identity, a dual identity. Born in Macedonia but living in the United States, she found the exact geographic midpoint between her two homes in the town of Grindavík, Iceland. This place that was once unfamiliar to her now became the symbol of her dual identity and the springboard for a series of photographs. Through a layered symbolism, she explores personal stories and ideas that relate back to this. The image pictured above, Palimpsest consists of a book resting on a rock in a shallow body of water. The meaning of the title has to do with a change occurring to something (i.e. a piece of writing or a place, perhaps even a person) with the original still showing through after the revision. In a way, this could be a self portrait. The book may have originally been written to describe a person who was born and lived in Macedonia. Pages inside have then been erased and rewritten, describing someone who now lives in America. The book is resting on a rock, which may represent Iceland, the place that is in between.

Installation shot: Unknown, Overlooked, and Unfamiliar

Installation shot: Unknown, Overlooked, and Unfamiliar

So, even though Jasna, Harry, and Nigel make completely different work, the overlap between them is present in this exhibition. I would suggest seeing it in person to find your own parallels and connections. Stop in before the show closes at the end of the month!

Installation shot: Unknown, Overlooked, and Unfamiliar

Installation shot: Unknown, Overlooked, and Unfamiliar


See Unknown, Overlooked, and Unfamiliar at Main Street Arts through Friday, March 30, 2018. You can also preview the exhibition on Artsy: Artsy.net/mainstreetarts.

Inside the artist’s studio with Harry Littell

Exploring near Horseheads. Photo by Roger Freeman

Exploring near Horseheads. Photo by Roger Freeman

I live in Ithaca, NY, where I’m a teacher (Tompkins Cortland Community College) and fine art photographer. I think of my studio broadly as the upstate New York region. A sense of place is important in my work.

House with asphalt shingles and vinyl siding, Union Springs, 2016

House with asphalt shingles and vinyl siding, Union Springs, 2016

In 2016 I began a collaborative project with friend and writer Ron Ostman to explore the upstate cultural landscape including houses, schools, businesses, industries, theaters, signs, thrift stores, and places of worship.  The unadorned vernacular architecture of the old farm house above attracted me with the mundane beauty of its simple lines and patterns.

Rhinehart Sand and Gravel, Corning,2017

Rhinehart Sand and Gravel, Corning, 2017

We strove for a  focused aimlessness in our weekly treks. We had no fixed destination. The key was to stop. Often. A main interest became sites that reflect the flux of the built environment. We saw evidence of industries in decline or completely gone. The hulking rusted machinery at a gravel mining operation near Corning is a reminder of a different era.

Cayuga Milk Ingredients plant, Aurora, 2017

Cayuga Milk Ingredients plant, Auburn, 2017

We also saw new industry. The  Cayuga Milk Ingredients plant near Auburn is a high tech milk processing plant serving a collective of dairy farmers, its pristine facade rising above the surrounding agricultural land.

Petrified Creatures Museum, Richfield Springs

Petrified Creatures Museum, Richfield Springs, 2017

I keep my photo technique simple. For this project I used a full frame mirrorless digital camera and two manual focus prime lenses, a 35mm and a 50mm. Some of the artists I look to for inspiration include Walker Evans, Edward Hopper, Bernd and Hilla Becher, Stephen Shore, Alec Soth, Lee Friedlander, and Thomas Struth.

Elmira/Horseheads contact sheet

Elmira/Horseheads contact sheet

Double page spread

Double page spread

Towards the end of 2017 I began to put the project into book form.

InDesign layout in progress

InDesign layout in progress

I use InDesign to combine photographs and text. It’s challenging and fun to find visual and thematic connections between images. The screen grab above shows a glimpse of the process involved in finding a pair of images for a double-page spread. Images that don’t make the cut live in the limbo of the pasteboard outside the page layout. Ron wrote an introduction about our process and an afterward with thoughts on the state of upstate.

Storefronts

Storefronts

The shop signs in the photos above provided an idea for the title of the book, as seen in the cover image below.

Cover, UNROOM: New 2 U

Cover, UNROOM: New 2 U

I used MagCloud, a print on demand publisher, to print UNROOM: New 2 U.  Signed copies are available at Main Street Arts. The book can also be purchased directly from MagCloud.

Printing and framing

Printing and framing

I print and frame exhibition prints in my office at home. Here are two images being prepared for the exhibit at Main Street Arts. A big thanks to Brad for his interest in this project!

Dundee storefront

Dundee storefront, 2017

Ron and I are continuing to work on two offshoots from this project. One is a series of photographs of storefronts,  such as the above second-hand store in Dundee.

Robinson's Wood Shop, Cortland

Robinson’s Wood Shop, Cortland, 2017

Another is a series about upstate New York people and their stories, such as this environmental portrait of Steve Robinson at his wood mill in Cortland.

Wood Hicks and Bark Peelers

Wood Hicks and Bark Peelers

Ron and I have collaborated on a number of books about historical photographers, the most recent of which is Wood Hicks and Bark Peelers: The Photographic Legacy of William T. Clarke, published by Penn State University Press in fall 2016. For more about this project see the New York Times Lens Blog.


See 12 of Harry Littell’s photographs in Unknown, Overlooked, and Unfamiliar at Main Street Arts on display through Friday, March 30, 2018. The exhibition can also be viewed on the gallery’s Artsy page: Artsy.net/mainstreetarts.