Beacon Portrait Project (Meredith Heuer | Courtesy Fovea)
The fovea is a part of our eye: a tiny area located in the center of the retina that’s responsible for our sharpest vision. How fitting, then, that Fovea Exhibitions on Main Street in Beacon is a small gallery that shows photographs depicting subject matter that can be difficult to look at, but is important to see, and to see clearly.
“Most of the time, these are not pretty pictures to look at,” says Stephanie Heimann, co-founder of the nonprofit, volunteer-run exhibition space. “We present topic-oriented exhibitions by individuals or group shows that focus on a news or a social issue.” Like Fovea’s co-director, Sabine Meyer, Heimann is a photo editor by profession. “We bring to the walls interesting projects that we see in our professional lives that we like,” she says, “and that we think people haven’t been given enough opportunity to see.”
Fovea Exhibitions doesn’t function as a commercial gallery. “We could sell the pictures, but that’s not in any way driving what we’re showing, because if it was, we wouldn’t be able to show these kinds of pictures,” says Heimann. “Sometimes there’s some overlap of something that somebody might want to hang on their wall, but usually not.” The photographers are all “world-class,” according to Heimann, but because they know that Fovea is a “labor of love,” they donate their work to the gallery.
When Fovea was founded in May of 2007, the publications that traditionally showed photojournalism were starting to dwindle in number. “The inspiration to create Fovea was really based in an attempt to allow the public to see more of this genre of photography. It’s important that people see these images: It’s important information, but there’s less and less of a forum for it.”
Past exhibits have examined topics such as food sustainability, the plight of mountain gorillas and America’s relationship with firearms. Once a topic is chosen for an exhibition, it’s augmented by education in the form of public lectures, to prompt further dialogue on the subject, or with visits to elementary, middle and high schools to reach the students there. Fovea’s website hosts virtual exhibits from past shows and a “What You Can Do” tab that allows viewers to explore what they can do with the feelings stirred up by viewing controversial or difficult images.
The current exhibit, “The Beacon Portrait Project: A Visual Map of Community,” features photographs by Beacon resident Meredith Heuer. The nationally known editorial photographer documented the people who live in Beacon using a unique process: Every time she took a photograph of somebody – whether they were a stockbroker or artist, prison guard or dog-walker – she would ask that person to recommend the person she should photograph next. “In that way, the trail led naturally down a path of community,” says Heimann, and her portraits create a catalogue of “Beacon’s unique moment in history.”
“The Beacon Portrait Project” displays 22 of the more than 100 photographs (shot with film) that Heuer has produced. The show will remain on view through Sunday, January 5.
Fovea will host a special event on Saturday, November 23 for Detroit-based 71-year-old Patricia Lay-Dorsey, whose photography documents her multiple sclerosis and the challenges of living life in a wheelchair paralyzed from the waist down. Diagnosed in 1988, she began taking self-portraits in 2008, with the intention of showing the day-to-day life of a person with a disability.
Lay-Dorsey, whom Heimann calls “a major force of nature, with the most spirit of anybody you’ve ever met,” was featured earlier in the year at Fovea in an exhibit, “Falling into Place,” and has now compiled her photographs in a book of the same name. Returning to Beacon this Saturday, she will collaborate with her friend Illich Mujica, a deejay from Brooklyn whom Lay-Dorsey knows from her visits to the annual electronic music festival in Detroit, and the book launch will morph into a dance party led by Lay-Dorsey’s alter ego, Grandma Techno.
The event will feature a book-signing and short artist talk at 7 p.m., followed by a live video performance featuring Lay-Dorsey’s photographs and musical response by Deejay Mujica at 8:30 p.m. and the dance party at 9 p.m. Lay-Dorsey’s book, Falling into Place, will be available for purchase at the event at a special price of $30. The event is free and all are welcome.
Admission to Fovea Exhibitions is always free, but the $5 suggested donation does go a long way to help pay the bills, says Heimann. Although nobody gets a salary there, she says, the donations help to pay the operating expenses of running the space. Winter gallery hours are Saturday and Sunday from 12 noon to 6 p.m. It’s open on Fridays, too, during the summer.
Fovea Exhibitions, 143 Main Street, Beacon; (845) 232-3443, www.foveaexhibitions.org.