They capture one parade in one town on a single day, but the dozens of photographs in “The July Fourth Project,” which is opening at the Saugerties Performing Arts Factory (SPAF) on July 5, provide an epic view of America: a rich, nuanced look that ranges in style and sensibility from Norman Rockwell to Diane Arbus. The Project grew out of the invitation by Allen Bryan, a local photographer who had long been shooting Saugerties’ Fourth of July parade, to fellow photographers to join him in recording the event as it unfolded on July 4, 2012. Ten responded.
“On a personal level, we each enjoyed the experience and benefited from the camaraderie,” notes participant Art Murphy on the website for the project, www.smalltownparade.com. When everyone sat down together to examine the work that had emerged, “We realized we had recorded a very unique and appealing take on a quintessentially American event. We were impressed by how we came up with such a diverse and interesting take on this event in the community.”
So the group began looking for a venue for a show of the work in Saugerties. The large size of the exhibition space at SPAF means that a wealth of images will be on display, with each photographer contributing at least three works.
Besides Murphy and Bryan, the photographers are Dan Burkholder, Tom Lindley, Benjamin Swett, Ken Tannenbaum, Harry Wiks, Michael Nelson, Jill Skupin, Moshe Katvan and Rivka Katvan. They’ve captured both the passing spectacle of firetrucks, floats (one pic shows a man in a red-white-and-blue hat standing in a giant Dutch clog), antique tractors, marching bands, civic groups and politicians and the reaction of the spectators lining the sidewalk, along with the background of homes and storefronts adorned with red-white-and-blue flags and bunting.
Each photographer saw this combination of elements in a different way. Patriotism is portrayed in all its heroic, tawdry and poignant aspects, and notions of freedom, togetherness and duty are explored in all their richness and irony. While Saugerties residents will get a special kick out of seeing themselves up-close and personal, any American or student of American culture will be intrigued by this fascinating lens on Americana.
“The July Fourth Project: A Small-Town Parade” opening, Friday, July 5, 6-9 p.m., gallery open Wednesday-Friday, 11 a.m.-5 p.m., Saugerties Performing Arts Factory, 169 Ulster Avenue, Saugerties.