Cedric Chatterley, Jean Laughton, and Michael Shapiro

Photo Show
February 22 - March 24, 2006

2006 Michael Shapiro

Photo, left, by Jean Laughton

Director's Note

Almost anyone alive today would have a difficult time imagining life before photography. Many of the assumptions we hold about the world have been changed, manipulated, or reinforced through the use of photographs. At one time people could look at a photograph and believe that it spoke the truth.  To quote Susan Sontag from her book On Photography:  "What is written about a person or an event is frankly an interpretation, as are handmade visual statements, like paintings and drawings.  Photographed images do not seem to be statements about the world so much as pieces of it, miniatures of reality that anyone can make or acquire."

What kind of reality do we project for the camera? We now realize that a photograph can lie as much as the subject can! Knowing we are being photographed can cause us to take on a different persona. Conversely, taking on a persona can also reveal much more about our humanity than we had planned.

When photography was first invented it was indescribable. Cries were heard that taking a photograph could get you killed for stealing a soul. Nothing that came before could compare with the verisimilitude of a photograph. Artists had always searched for ways to create a likeness of the human face. Great portraiture was the product of a few exceptional painters, and was therefore expensive. The camera fulfilled the need to connect in a way that made it accessible to everyone.

The fact that photographs are ubiquitous attests to this drive to make meaning of the world and to somehow connect with other people. The public has come to assume that events and people in their lives must be photographed to attain some sort of validity.

The artists in this exhibition share a passion for documenting who people are and where the way in which they live their lives is paramount.

"All photographs are memento mori. To take a photograph is to participate in another person’s (or things) mortality, vulnerability, mutability. Precisely by slicing out this moment and freezing it, all photographs testify to time’s relentless melt."

Their dedication to the art of photography helps us to place ourselves and our own lives within the continuum in a more meaningful way.

Deborah Mitchell, Director -- APEX Gallery

Artist's Statement: Cedric Chatterley

While editing the work for this exhibit, and while having conversations with Deborah Mitchell about it's meaning, I was forced to think about something I might not have articulated otherwise.

I prefer to work with individuals or small groups of people over the course of many years...Invariably, the most important moment came just before making the first photograph, or shortly after.  Somewhere within that initial face to face communication we shared--and I remember these feelings very well--there was an agreement made, a bond, an invitation to go on a journey.

I feel fortunate to remember this now

Artist's Statement: Jean Laughton

It has been said that Art of the American West is about documentation and romance. These two principles form the core of my "GO WEST!" series. My fascination with the documentation of the American West stems in part from my love of silent Cinema – the backdrops and sets - the posturing of reality - and in part from my desire to photograph the everyday people of the region. I am intrigued with the way ordinary people inhabit characters of their own fascination, imagination or creation and instill the clichéd mythology with a look and feel all their own.

A self taught photographer, I grew up in rural Iowa near the South Dakota border, on the edge of the West. When I began this series I was living in New York City. I was longing to "GO WEST!" to photograph the people of a region that so captivated me - to escape back to reality and wide-open spaces – on a journey that became not only a photographic one but also a personal one.

My journeys West from New York City took me through Iowa, South Dakota, Nebraska, Wyoming and Montana over several summers. Along the way I stopped in small towns to attend the local rodeos. Rodeos were the venue I chose to set up my makeshift outdoor studio consisting of my painted scenic backdrop and my 4x5 view camera.  When I looked through the camera lens, I marveled at the transformation that took place when the subject stood in front of my backdrop. The use of the painted backdrops allows my subjects to establish a relationship with the iconography they both inhabit and represent. The subjects stay real but the reality is objectified and romanticized – they take on mythical qualities. Through my technique I strive to balance a heightened sense of dramatization, which arises out of the process of backdrop portraiture, with the acute reality of the real life roles the subjects play in the drama of their own lives. I feel this is not only a documentation of the people of the region but also a documentation of what they represent.

Three years ago I moved back from New York City to the Badlands of South Dakota to immerse both life and work in the daily rhythms of the land and its community of fierce individualism that has so inspired me. I am ranching & photographing - happy to be a part of the ranching community and documenting ranch life and work from horseback. I continue my commitment to photograph the people and land of the region, more specifically now the Badlands of South Dakota - through documentation, portraiture, and landscapes - although my perspective has changed somewhat – having now stepped inside the photo.

archive 2006

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