For many participants, the annual juried group photography show at the Center for Photography at Woodstock (CPW) has served as a career-boosting stepping-stone to shows at the Museum of Modern Art, the International Center for Photography and other prestigious venues. It’s a testament to the unfailing instincts of each show’s curator for fresh, distinctive work. “It’s become a hot-button show highlighting new energy,” said CPW executive director Ariel Shanberg. “We attract leading figures in photography, and this year we received a record number of submissions” – more than 600, he noted.
The curator of “Photography Now 2014,” which opens with a reception on Saturday, April 5 from 5-7 p.m., is Julie Grahame, who publishes aCurator.com, which was named one of the Ten Best photo sites by the British Journal of Photography. A recent check of the aCurator blog revealed a wide range of subjects and geographies, including photographic series documenting fracking in North America, rioting between Muslims and Hindus in India, urban renewal in Istanbul and the immigration of North Africans to Italy in leaking, overcrowded boats.
Not surprisingly, given this global, topical bent, Grahame’s selections for “Photography Now 2014” include photographers from Belgium, Las Vegas and San Francisco as well as people from Iran, Israel and South Korea now living in the States. Writing about her approach to this year’s selection of photographers, Grahame said, “I sought out thoughtful series that demonstrated a different perspective from that which I regularly see. Each one of those selected is a little twisted.”
Some works “break away from the traditional use of the camera,” Shanberg added. For example, Belgian Romy Eijckman traps lightning bugs between the lens cap and lens and simply leaves the shutter open, creating enigmatic images of constellations of glowing yellow lights against black that resemble a settlement viewed from the air at night. Thomas Jackson, based in San Francisco, is showing selections from his Emergent Behavior series, in which he creates constructions out of disposable plastic materials inspired by self-organizing systems in nature, such as termite mounds, flocking birds and schooling fish, which are then photographed in wild natural settings; not the gap between the manmade and the natural but their unexpected convergence, despite the synthetic material, creates tension. Farideh Sakhaeifar, an upper-class Iranian woman now living in New Jersey, breaks a cultural taboo by photographing male workers in her native country. She sets up workplacelike tableaux in which the men, backed by a white panel held by a pair of hands, face the camera and pull the shutter themselves – a kind of empowering that crosses the class and gender divide, as well as the wall between artist and subject.
As happens each year, a piece will be selected and purchased for the Center’s permanent collection, Shanberg said. Each artist also will receive a complimentary portfolio review with Eyeist’s cofounder and photo editor, Allegra Wilde.
On view concurrently will be “One Hundred Count,” Nick Albertson’s photographs of quantities of straws, napkins, paper cups, rubber bands and other ordinary household items and office supplies arranged in grids and other abstract patterns, which are photographed from above. The resulting images relate more to landscape, and in many cases transform literal space into a flat, abstracted field.
Albertson’s arrangements reference mass consumption and its waste, but they also awaken an appreciation of the formal aspect of banal objects, their variability, intrinsic beauty and poetic associations. Folded napkins suggest waves, overlapping rubber bands create a dervishlike dance and dozens of bent paper clips, photographed on a clear surface that allows for a shallow plane of flickering shadows to register, form a text of cryptic hieroglyphics. The Chicago-based photographer is a Bard alumnus, and his work has been exhibited in Chicago, Seattle, Portland, Oregon and New York.
“Photography NOW 2014”/“One Hundred Count,” April 5-June 14, Wednesdays-Sundays, 12 noon-5 p.m., Center for Photography at Woodstock, 59 Tinker Street, Woodstock; (845) 679-9957, www.cpw.org. There will be an opening reception on Saturday, April 5 from 5-7 p.m.