Photography

Face It exhibit at BGSU takes intimate look at portrait photography

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News   Photographic portraits have always had their allure. Think of those ghostly images staring back at you from 19th century daguerreotypes. Viewers will find the contemporary descendants of those models in Face It: Reimagining Contemporary Portraits now on exhibit at the Bryan Gallery in the Fine Arts Building on the Bowling Green State University campus. Recently this reporter was treated to a tour of the show accompanied by the three curators and two photographers who have work in the exhibit. The seed for Face It was planted with a passing remark by Jacqui Nathan, the gallery director, to Lynn Whitney, who teaches photography at BGSU. How about a portrait show? Nathan asked. That casual suggestion took a couple years to gestate, but with the help of art historian Andrew Hershberger it has now come to fruition. Photo portraits are “very common,” he said, “Very familiar.” We carry them around with us in our wallets, on our telephones. We have identification cards with portraits on them. And we treasure them. In the event of a disaster, after family and pets are safe, people will grab the family portraits. “Arguably this is most common type of photography ever,” he said. “Yet they remain mysterious.” Back in the days of daguerreotypes, “people were frightened of these portraits,” Hershberger said. “The kind of impact portraits can have is pretty dramatic.” That pull is evident in Face It, whether it is the tightly cropped images of photographer Nicholas Nixon and his wife, who in a couple images peers surreptitiously out at the viewer or Greg Miller’s photos of children waiting for the school bus in Connecticut. Those photos were taken near Sandy Hook not long after the horrific school shooting there. Hershberger quotes Miller as saying: “How can anyone not see children, all children, as their own, as nieces and nephews, or even as themselves?” In putting together the show, the curators drew mostly on contemporary works with a few iconic images to set the stage. Three portraits on loan from the Toledo Museum of Art include a portrait of a pastry cook from 1928 by August Sander. Sander’s work inspired that of Daniel McInnis, who teaches at BGSU. A Metropolitan Museum of Art retrospective of Sander’s Face of Our Time series, which included thousands of images, was “a leaping off point” for McInnis’ series of portraits of artists. There is also a quartet of intimate images from Emmet Gowin of his wife and her sister and a photo by Andrea Modica of Derek Jeter taken during spring training before his rookie season. “He’s a baby,” Whitney said looking at the image. Still, she noted, you can see the combination of strength and softness that would characterize the Yankee short stop throughout his 22-year career. A nationally known photographer, Whitney knows many of the photographers whose work is represented. “Many these people here are my friends or friends of friends. This is personal, this show, for me.” “It seems to me,” said Jess Dugan, a photographer whose work is represented in the show, “the pictures in this show are made by people who deeply believe in the power of portraiture, and deeply believe in the resonance of photographing another person, connecting with another person, and sharing that image.” She…


The cosmos is ready for its close up in Eric Zeigler’s exhibit

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News The universe is on view in downtown Toledo. Or at least photographer Eric Zeigler’s vision of the universe, which includes: Galaxies of 100,000 stars, compressed into one small frame the size of a computer monitor. One of Pluto’s moons, the smear of light as good as anyone will likely ever see it. The rust on a meteorite in an image blown up 36-times its natural size. A computer image of neutrinos – subatomic particles so small 65 billion of them fit into a square centimeter – interacting. The exhibit “Under Lying” is now on view at River House Arts, 425 Jefferson St. The exhibit is open through July 30. For hours call 419-441-4025. The show will be part of Art Loop on July 21. The work, Zeigler explained, comes from his interest in astronomy that was sparked by a class he took at Bowling Green State University, where he earned a Bachelor’s of Fine Arts in Photography in 2008. He’d been taking photos since his early teens, inspired by his grandfather. Above the television in his grandparents’ home was a landscape photo his grandfather had taken. And scattered around the house were copies of Popular Photography magazine. His grandfather, Zeigler said, was interested in optics, and during World War II maintained sights on bombers that flew missions over Germany. Young Eric was fascinated by the data included in Popular Photography. What did the shutter speeds and aperture opening numbers mean? “I was totally addicted to figuring all this stuff out,” he said. He set his family’s new digital camera on manual. That helped him understand shutter speed, but the optics weren’t advanced enough to really vary the depth of field much. Then at about 16, a friend’s family gave him a film camera. It all clicked. The son of a carpenter, who worked with his father, he first attended BGSU to study construction management. “That lasted one day.” Then architecture. Then, since he liked making furniture, he decided to try the School of Art. Zeigler discovered he could take a photography class. That’s when his interest took off. It led him to the San Francisco Art Institute for a Master’s of Fine Arts. Though living on the West Coast the focus off his work remained rooted in Waterville. “The Route 24 bypass coming through Waterville took a significant portion of my parents’ property,” Zeigler said. “So there was this idea that I needed to visualize and preserve what it looked like before the road came through.” In essence, he said, it pose the question: “How do you make things that are just a figment of your imagination?” That body of work, “From the Middle of Nowhere,” shot over the span of more than three years, turned into his MFA thesis. He further explore the concept of visualizing the intangible through a series of diptychs, “Still Photographs.” Zeigler went through his archives. He spread hundreds of photographs of a variety of subjects out on the floor. From those he culled pairs that in some way resonated with one another. “I saw connections between them, the way the images that worked back and forth described this separate space,” he said. Together they expressed something that alone they could not. One shows a dead seal on a…


Photographer Jan Bell captures images of nature’s soul with light & time

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Jan Bell’s photographs have a timeless quality. One of the most important ingredients in achieving that sense of chronological suspension is time itself. When Bell travels to the Great West or the shores of Lake Superior, he takes his time, stays awhile, acclimates himself to his surroundings. And waits on the light. On a recent two-week trip to the north he spent the better part of two weeks and all he saw were blue skies. He doesn’t like clear day or, rather, he doesn’t like the harsh shadows the sun produces. So he waits. Luckily, he said, he appreciates the solitude. “Ideally I like to be alone so I have a clear mind to think about what I’m doing. … I don’t get bored. I just enjoy being out there away from people enjoying the wonderful coastline.” Bell studies what he sees before him, looking for the right combination of shade and texture and shape that makes for a telling composition. And he waits for that soft overcast light that smooths it all out. When the moment arrives, he shoots long exposures, up to 30 seconds long, tripping his shutter by remote control. “I’m very meticulous as I shoot. I love the process. The world just slows down. The shooting part, that’s the thrill. Then when I get in the darkroom I know what I have to do.” Back in his studio he refines the look and emotional punch using Photoshop. The result are archival pigment prints, printed on museum grade 100 percent cotton, that make the viewer wonder if the trees, the water and rocks may indeed have souls. These images have attracted national attention and honors. In January, Bell won a M. Reichmann Luminous Landscape grant. The honor includes publication in LensWork magazine. Also this year he learned that the Toledo Museum of Art had acquired one of his prints for its permanent collection. A print of his photograph “Agave” was donated to the museum by Ann Arbor photographer Howard Bond. The museum then accepted it and added it to its permanent collection. With those achievements Bell has been able to check off two more items on his list of career goals. These mark the most recent accomplishments in his mid-life career as an art photographer. In his younger years, Bell, 62, was an avid photographer, but with the demands of family and a job as art director at WBGU-TV, he set his camera aside. A trip with a friend who was a photographer led him to get his camera back out, and he found a new vocation. The first fruits of his work were exhibited in shows in Bowling Green in 2002 as well as inclusion in Toledo Area Artists Exhibition at the Toledo Museum. He also hit the art fair circuit winning top prizes at the Black Swamp Arts Festival and Crosby Festival of the Arts in his first season. The next year he was accepted into a prominent Chicago art fair. In 2010 his photograph “Agave” won the grand prize in the Ansel Adams Photo Competition. That’s the first print Susan Peet, of Bowling Green, purchased for her family. Since then Peet has acquired four more Bell images for herself and her sons, Andrew, James and William. Most recently…