The Art of Light Photography Club (ALPC) is now displaying Shutter 2012, an exhibit that showcases artful photographs from college students all around the country, in the Student Union gallery.
The Shutter exhibit has returned for its third annual showing, although it was skipped in 2011.
The opening reception on Thursday, January 18th, 2012 was a major success, with somewhere between 60-80 people passing through, said Liz Poulin, president of ALPC.
“There really was an awesome turnout,” she said. “Since it was in the Student Union we got the chance for students and faculty from outside the art department to come see our show.”
Some of the gallery-goers may have had hidden motives typical of most college students. “I do think there were too many crashers using us for the free food,” said Poulin.
Whether lured by the love of art or catered meat, the feedback from those in attendance was overwhelmingly positive.
“There were a lot of positive reactions. There were a few negative comments I read, but art is subjective and nobody is going to like everything in that gallery,” she said.
The only negative statement to be found among pages of positivity in the guestbook was from a girl named Kimberly from Charlotte who wrote, “Only four [pictures] stood out. Artists need more creativity. The gallery made me want to cry.”
That was the exception among many impressed patrons to sign the guestbook.
The art includes many different creative mediums for photography, from a self-portrait laser printed on wood to a family portrait encased in wax.
The latter was a piece named “Home” done by UNC Charlotte student Rachel E. Andrews.
“This past semester was very experimental. We were encouraged to look beyond traditional methods to mediums that could further enhance an image,” Andrews said.
“This was the first time I have incorporated wax with an image and it was a successful project.”
The wax gives the portrait a ghostly look in which the viewer can tell they are looking at a family portrait but can’t identify who they are looking at. Andrews said this sends a message.
“These family portraits are the Western idea of what a “perfect” family would be: white, a mom and dad and children. Leave out the single parent, the homosexual couple and the black family,” she said.
“The ambiguous identities allow the viewer to project their own family on the portraits and question the idea of what aspect of family creates home,” she said.
Andrews was pleased with the validation of having one of her pieces chosen.
“It’s always rewarding to have my work received in a gallery setting among other pieces created by very talented artists. At least I know I’m doing something right,” she said.
While UNC Charlotte students made up about half of the photos in the exhibit, other (mostly southeastern) colleges were also represented.
One notable piece from Cheryl Jordan Upchurch of University of South Carolina showed two closets: one belonging to a seven-year-old girl and the other to a 21-year-old male. The similarities are glaring.
Antonio Martinez, assistant professor of Intermedia Arts at Southern Illinois University Carbondale (SIUC), was the guest fine art photography juror for the exhibit, choosing about 30 pieces out of over 780 photograph submissions.
As well as the 30 winners, Martinez picked another 30 submissions to be shown on the ALPC website.
His longtime frined Aspen Hochhalter is a UNC Charlotte professor who also serves as faculty advisor for ALPC. As lead organizer of Shutter 2012, she approached him to be juror in October 2011.
“It’s been a refreshing experience, in that I get to see a range of different styles of creative work from non-SIUC students,” Martinez said. “In short, I get to see how students in other programs are similar and dissimilar to the students I teach at SIUC.”
Martinez made a couple observations about the photographers’ demographics while sifting through their photos, including the push for experimentation that Andrews mentioned.
“I noticed that the majority of the work produced from the southeast schools have an affinity for alternative and experimental photographic processes.”
Perhaps more startling was the realization Martinez made about the mind state of the young applicants.
“What I noticed in viewing this student work, which I presume was created mainly by young adults, is that this generation is consumed with anxiety,” he said.
“This could explain the desire to distress the surface of the image, to point the camera at the middle-class banality of life, or to create fictional narratives as societal warning flags concerning gender or environmental issues.”
Perhaps Kimberly was on to something when she admitted that the gallery made her want to cry.
“There are many images in the exhibit that evoke feelings of solitude, despair and loneliness,” said Martinez.
He doesn’t see this as a negative though. “At first, this concerns me, but I am reminded that artists, at times, function as the social antennae of the world, in which they possess a unique level of sensitivity to their environment with people and places included. These issues are important and impact society as a whole. When you put a camera in an artist’s hand, that level of sensitivity only amplifies.”