Portfolio Showcase 2013

July 3 - 27, 2013
Opening Reception: July 5

Every photograph tells a story. When part of a body of work, the photograph takes on a new meaning, becoming part of a bigger and more complete narrative. A portfolio allows the photographer to explore the complexities of their subject, providing context that gives it richness and meaning greater than the sum of its parts. The Kiernan Gallery is pleased to announce its second annual portfolio showcase, juried by renowned photography critic Vicki Goldberg. For this exhibition, four photographers were selected to show their complete bodies of work.

About the Juror:

Vicki Goldberg, one of the leading voices in the field of photography criticism, wrote about photography for the New York Times for thirteen years and has published several books and the texts for more than twenty-five photographic monographs.  One review of her latest book, The White House: The President's Home in Photographs and History, called it "a lovely way to invite people who are a little wobbly on their White House and presidential history to shore up some of their weaknesses, while learning a thing or two about how the medium of photography has shaped our identity and national perspective."  Her books The Power of Photography: How Photographs Changed Our Lives and Margaret Bourke-White: A Biography were each named one of the Best Books of the Year by the American Library Association, and the anthology she edited, Photography in Print: Writings from 1816 to the Present, was cited in the Wall Street Journal in 2006 as one of the five best books ever written on photography. She has received numerous awards for writing, including the International Center of Photography's Infinity Award, the Royal Society's Dudley Johnston Award, and the Long Chen Cup (China).  Ms. Goldberg, who has taught courses at the Institute of Fine Arts in New York, the Centro de la Imagen in Mexico City, the Rhode Island School of Design and the Art Institute of Boston, lectures internationally and writes on photography for various magazines.

Geoffrey Agrons, Hazardous Shorelines

A quiet melancholy, a silver-gray poignancy, lingers on these unpeopled shores. There are struts that resemble Japanese gates and hold up nothing, merely producing tremulous reflections in water, as if a brush had wavered on wet paper. Elsewhere poles stand up from the shallows with no reason for being, and weedy grasses trap so much light they look like an unkempt halo topping a cliff. (The photographer calls this The Rapunzel Experience.) Loneliness rules – the structures themselves, decaying or not, seem hopelessly isolated, far removed from a city that might be only a fantasy. Once in a while the sky quietly announces either a revelation or an apocalypse.

The place is the coastal area of southern New Jersey, prey, as we know from recent events, to invincible weather.  Agrons suggests that the human genome might just encode a longing to live by the water, yet global warming seems to be rendering such an impulse unreasonable. These photographs remind us that the coast and its beauty call us nonetheless, though a plaintive undertone lurks beneath the surface of its song. 

-- Vicki Goldberg

Joseph D.R. O'Leary, Of Beards and Men

In a time when portraits are everywhere, on magazine pages, cell phones, and screens ad infinitum (not to mention galleries), these register in an unusual key. This is partly because of the theme, bearded men, which could have been a joke but is not, because it is merely the excuse for a larger exploration of what the sitters are about. O'Leary intends to show how masculinity and male personal identity are defined in contemporary society, a subject that can barely be hinted at in so short a compass. Yet he has registered sufficient and often striking differences in style and self-presentation among these men, enough so that viewers can at least imagine that they know something about the personalities who sat for the camera.

The sitters literally sit, a sameness of pose that sharpens the sense of differences. Clothes supposedly make the man, and they do at least disguise him and  present some desired image. A hat, a vest, a tie, a T-shirt, a pair of overalls: immediate placement in one sector of the culture. One man here took off all his clothes and managed to convey despite, or maybe because of, his nakedness, the image of a personality.  Then there are extravagant or careful beards and tattoos, all clues we generally think we know how to read.  And props, and body language, and, of course, facial expressions.

Portraits are deceptive.  We’ll never know what degree of a man’s identity was due to his attitude before the camera  or to the photographer’s idea of him.  Richard Avedon said it all: “We have separate ambitions for the image.  His need to plead his case probably goes as deep as my need to plead mine, but the control is with me.”

-- Vicki Goldberg

Christopher Capozziello, The Distance Between Us

Christopher Capozziello has a twin brother who was born with cerebral palsy. He is subject to seizures, and life presents him with major difficulties that most of us never encounter. Capozziello has been photographing him for twelve years, with feelings are as mixed as ours but more pronounced: more guilt, more grief, more sympathy, and surely even more discomfort of the sort that most of us feel at the sight of the ills that mortals are heir to. Those feelings are one of the strengths of this essay, for all of them come through in a relatively straightforward, factual manner, which might not be expected of so personal a document. Documentaries of illness and injury often fall into the traps of exploitation, sensationalism, or exaggerated appeals for pity. This one maintains a careful balance between clear-sighted observation, compassion, and distress, and the composition and lighting of these strong black and white images have a restrained drama that is commensurate with their content. What Roland Barthes called the punctum, the detail that focused attention, comes through sharply here: a distorted hand, a dragging foot. The subject obviously cooperated and was willing to have both his seizures and his helplessness recorded, doubtless knowing that his brother would neither pull his punches nor overstep the bounds of respect and kinship.

Capozziello’s brother eventually has surgery to send electrical stimulus through wires to his brain; that has effected some improvement, though the doors to a normal life are still tightly closed.   

-- Vicki Goldberg

Bob Avakian

As dawn approaches or night creeps across the sky, the sun shines through thicker atmosphere than it does during the day, changing the palette overhead and nudging colors down on earth across the spectrum. Early and late day also confuse color film, throwing at it more, or less, of one of its three component colors it is calibrated for; digital is also affected. Add artificial light to the mix and a photograph will no longer even be posing as truthful.

Avakian photographs at these off hours, which always deliver to his camera something that his eye had not registered.  He considers the camera’s lies a form of invention and happily adds a fillip of his own.  The results are what ought to be ordinary landscapes, however nicely composed, but when cloaked in effulgent light and color they give birth to a parallel world. Skies turn orange, tree trunks violet, clouds occasionally erupt in radiant explosions, the light insists on behaving improperly in a romantic and beautiful manner.  Avakian, purposely exceeding the outer limits of photography’s faithfulness to nature, produces a vision of earth that is even lovelier than the landscape that we know.

-- Vicki Goldberg