Works by Multiple Exposure Gallery artists Karen Keating and Fred Zafran were selected by Jack Rasmussen, Director and Curator of the Art Gallery at the Katzen Center of American University, to be included in his exhibit Presence of Place at the Katzen Art Center at American University.
Presence of Place
Forty years ago, in a derelict building hidden among the abandoned amusement park rides of Glen Echo Park, four young photographers founded Photoworks with little more than a shared passion for the daily work of seeing, shooting, and printing images of lasting beauty and artistic integrity. Photoworks: Presence of Place will feature works by past and present members of the Photoworks community, faculty and students who have distinguished themselves by the quality and integrity of their work. This exhibition is in memory of Elsie Hull Sprague, an artist with a MA in Film from the School of Communication, American University.
January 24 – March 15, 2015.
Opening Reception: January 24, 2015 6:00 – 9:00 pm
American University Museum, Katzen Art Center
4400 Massachusetts Ave., NW Washington, DC 20016-8031
Museum Hours: 11 a.m. – 4 p.m., Tuesday–Sunday Admission is free.
Parking is available under the Katzen Arts Center and is free on evenings and weekends
For more information on current and upcoming exhibitions and events, please visit www.american.edu/museum .
Fred Zafran’s new show, 7th and H Streets, NW, at Multiple Exposures Gallery, is an exploration of the historic Old Downtown neighborhood in Washington, DC. More than a simple depiction of the character of the neighborhood, the images form a psychological landscape that communicates the spirit and presence of place. Fred offers insights into the joys of street photography and how they led him to this exceptional new portfolio.
Congratulations on the opening of your new exhibition. Would you tell us a little about your photography and way of working? I am principally an urban photographer and most of my work takes place “on the street.” My way of working is to set out with very little equipment… usually just a single camera and lens. I wander the streets observing, listening, trying simply to be present. I find joy in exploring without plan or preconception, remaining open to the unanticipated “stories” that the day may offer.
I’m also looking for things — settings, circumstances, people — that typically wouldn’t be found together, but when connected (framed), create a new and stronger narrative. Joel Meyerowitz, a well-known street photographer, has described it as “photographing the relationship between things.”
Do you choose specific locations to shoot or do you wander until you see something intriguing? Both really. I remain open to the possible, but at the same time, I’m drawn to settings with extraordinary light. I am always looking for illumination that “textures the darkness” because it is here that light itself imparts its strongest meaning. If I find a spot with extraordinary light, I will explore this location until I find the right vantage. Then I might stop and wait (…and wait some more) until an idea or opportunity presents itself. I could be at a single location observing and waiting for quite some time before I begin to press the shutter.
Would you share more about your new project and portfolio of work? For a year, I returned repeatedly to the neighborhood surrounding 7th and H Streets, NW, in Washington, DC. This is the historic "Old Downtown" DC and the corner of 7th and H Streets may be considered its "epicenter." The neighborhood is defined by the intersection of three distinct subcultures – a popular DC entertainment quarter, a Chinatown fading in decline, and a shadow world of those struggling and living too close to the street.
There was something about this neighborhood that kept bringing me back, to wander the streets, to explore, with the intent to document what I saw.
The images in your portfolio feature people from a number of different vantage points – at street level, from outside on the street looking in, from close and from farther away. Does vantage affect “comfort level” and does this change based upon proximity? In some cases, I’m very close to the people within the frame I’m capturing. Often I will have to react quickly to capture the image envisioned. If I have the time and opportunity, I like to engage, say hello, share a bit about what I am doing… and ask if it would be OK to make a photo.
When I shoot from the outside in, I sometimes go to the window, raise my camera and with a gesture, silently ask permission. Often the person will nod and smile and indicate they are OK with the situation. When you get close to people in street photography, you just have to work through any potential discomfort that arises. Connecting with people is part of the magic of street photography.
What do you want people to take away from your images? If my images are successful, the viewer will want to come back to look again. Alex Webb, a Magnum photographer and another well-known street photographer, describes less successful photos as “one-note” images – mildly interesting, but you look once and don’t care to come back again. Successful images ask questions, communicate emotionally on multiple levels, and don’t readily yield up their answers.
What advice do you have for individuals interested in exploring street photography or improving their street photography? It is helpful to look at the images of master photographers whose work was largely accomplished on the street. Examples include Andre Kertez, Henri Cartier-Bresson. Ray Metzker, Josef Koudelka, Fan Ho, Saul Leiter, Sam Abell, Alex Webb, Joel Meyerowitz, Helen Levitt, Daido Moriyama, and Vivian Maier.
However, the most important advice is really to pick up your camera, head out and make photos… and then go out and do it some more. When shooting on the street, go without plan or preconception. Simply wander, be aware, and remain open to the possible. I would also follow Sam Abell’s sage advice to “look for the setting first.” Let the light lead you to the right circumstances, compose, wait, and often the subject will find you.
The opening reception for Fred Zafran’s new show, 7th and H Streets, NW, will be held Sunday, March 2, 2014, from 2pm-4pm, at Multiple Exposures Gallery at the Torpedo Factory Art Center in Alexandria, Virginia.
Multiple Exposures Gallery's newly-minted president, Fred Zafran, explains the meaning behind a message.
Some time back, as I was traveling the unmarked road that is photography’s exquisitely winding journey, I came across a cryptic sign. It read:
“No image stands alone.”
At first uncertain, the meaning (and wisdom) of the message gradually became clear.
As our technique and craft evolve along with the opening of artistic sensibility, we find on occasion that our captured images seem, well… expressive, and perhaps even compelling. Maybe others seeing our work have said so too. Now energized, we are driven to create more compelling images, to be open and receptive to finding more.But… as the desire (the need?) arises to communicate an inner intent and deeper narrative through our work, we find that this is no longer possible with a single image (or a series of disconnected images). So, it is within the context of the photographic essay (or project) that this communication becomes possible, and an imperative.
Charles Harbutt (Magnum photographer) offers a definition of a photographic essay as a “multi-level picture story that flows primarily from an awareness of the symbolic possibilities of the subject matter.” He notes that this awareness may come either during the shooting or afterwards… but that there is “more vitality” when it comes later (!)Working principally as an “urban documentary (street) photographer,” my approach to image making is to head out on the street with camera in hand, and to remain open to the unforeseen. I have been working on a major project for about 9 months now (I’ll save this for a later Blog post). But what is of interest, is that during the course of this longer-term project, other small narratives not previously conceived, began making themselves known to me.Koji Onaka, an accomplished Japanese street photographer (and student of Daido Moriyama) summarizes well this curious process of discovery: “There’s not a clear concept before taking my pictures. Photography is procedural and I take photographs of what attracts me, and then later this manifests itself as interests. The subconscious is at play, the work acts as a reminder of what I’m interested in – it’s what caught my eye. There’s not something in particular that is my subject. It becomes a process of self-discovery.”
I will share a recent photographic narrative that appeared as subcontext of my ongoing work, and is becoming a project in itself. The new project depicts the photographer’s “presence” both conceptually and literally as observer and author of the captured scene – a key compositional and psychological element. Although still in the early stages of discovery and development (… and uncertain of emerging direction), I have risked sharing a few images in this Blog post. Maybe this is an examination of the “quantum entanglement” of photographer and the world observed (?)
More to follow…