Photography

If you’ve outgrown your Instamatic, four Dallas photographers may inspire you to higher endeavors.

The camera has been around a long time now. But even though artists like Thomas Eakins were quick to discover its aesthetic potential, and despite the achievements of men and women like Julia Margaret Cameron, Steichen, Stieglitz, Atget, Edward Weston, Ansel Adams, Dorothea Lange, and Walker Evans, people have been reluctant to recognize it as a real art medium. The Dallas Museum of Fine Arts, for example, has had only one photography show in the last five years.

There are signs of a change, however. Photography is now regularly covered by Art Forum, Art in America, and on the art pages of the New York Times. The DMFA has scheduled an exhibit of early western landscape photography from July 23 to August 31. Plans are also under way for expanding its meager collection of prints. The Fort Worth Art Museum is becoming increasingly receptive to innovative photographers like Michael Kostiuk, who this spring became the first local photographer to have a one-man show there, and whose work will be featured in the upcoming Exchange DFW/SFO (July 27-Sept 7). The Amon Carter Museum has recently had outstanding exhibits of William Henry Jackson and Eadweard Muybridge. Local galleries like The After-image, Delahunty, and Dupree have been showing new work by Joseph Jachna and Paul Caponigro, and even such an unlikely place as The Hobbit House in Olla Podrida occasionally displays excellent photographs (currently Bank Langmore’s) in among dried flower arrangements and bicentennial wall plaques. This isn’t to suggest that we are about to challenge New York and Los Angeles as a market, but simply that the line between purely decorative photography and serious work in the medium is being more sharply drawn. Buyers still prefer the traditional to the experimental – Ansel Adams to Jerry Uelsmann, for example – but also appear to have passed the stage in which only wagon wheels and foundered shrimp boats were considered appropriate subject matter.

The photographers featured here illustrate a broad range of styles and techniques. We do not claim that they are the four best photographer-artists in Dallas, whatever such a designation might mean, but only that they provide an introduction to the kinds of quality work being done here. Manel de Aumente

Manel is in his sixties and has been taking still photographs for over 30 years, first in the army, then in New York, Pittsburgh, and now in Dallas, where he works in a cluttered store-front studio on Swiss Avenue. The day before we talked someone had thrown a brick through one of his plateglass windows, but even when partially boarded up, the studio was flooded with light. “I have such extraordinary light here,” he said cheerfully, “absolutely beautiful.” Light, shadow, and texture are the dominant elements in his work, which he maintains has a “Catalonian sensuality” in spite of the starkness of some of the subject matter – row houses, steel mills, abandoned stores. He studied with Edward Weston and Ladislao Moholy-Nagy, from whom he learned the value of purity, form, and structure. Primarily a documentarian and a traditionalist, he shoots only in natural light and never retouches or tones his negatives. For him the camera is a tool for recording what actually exists in the external world and not a device for psychological interpretation or for projecting private symbols. A print, he says, should mean something to everyone, not just to the photographer. His latest project is a documentary essay on Texas life and culture entitled “Texas: As Is, Where Is.” He has already begun shooting on Swiss Avenue and Hall Street and during the year plans to travel around the state capturing, like Edward Weston, people in their natural surroundings. His strong feelings about the importance of recording subjects for posterity are reflected in a statement by Henri Cartier-Bres-son: “We photographers deal in things that are constantly vanishing, and when they have vanished there is no contrivance on earth which can make them come back again. We cannot develop and print a memory.” He plans to experiment with platinum printing, a process seldom used since the turn of the century. With typical modesty, he claims that none of his projects has any commercial value. His friends disagree and, as one of them put it, “want to blow his cover at last.”



Michael Kostiuk

On an imaginary photographic spectrum Michael Kostiuk would be 180 degrees from Manel de Aumente. His photographs are like entries in a diary or family album; that is, they are records of private rather than public events. Furthermore, they are emphatically experimental. He is one of the few artists using Polaroid SX-70 and Color-Pack film, for example, and in most of his prints he intentionally exploits the artificiality of his materials instead of striving for some kind of verisimilitude. His color prints are out-of-focus and over-developed, the antithesis of “true-color” snapshots but striking expressions of personal moods and fantasies. In his black and white work he often uses a flash in order to isolate objects in the foreground and phase the background into abstraction. But the abstraction is always that of a photograph, not of a painting. Kostiuk makes us aware constantly that photography is art, although his witty images and unconventional subject matter – a dog’s rear end, garden steps, a person’s knee – keep the message from becoming oppressive. His quarrel with convention extends to displaying his photographs between sheets of plexiglass instead of in a frame and to push-pinning life size prints to the wall like posters. It was a happy coincidence that his first FWAM show ran concurrently with that of Eadweard Muybridge at the Amon Carter. Although dramatically different in style and subject matter, both try to push photography to some kind of limit, to make camera and film do things that haven’t been done before.



Gene Mason

Gene Mason is a self-taught nature photographer who produces limited editions exclusively. For a time he ran his own gallery, The Gingerbread House, and now supplements his income by doing framing and custom lighting. His work has clarity and simplicity. His intention, as he defines it, is to make people look closely at the natural world in order to discover moments they ordinarily overlook. He is less concerned with dramatic forms and high contrasts than with subtleties of texture and surface. The naturalist Edward Abbey provides an appropriate gloss for some of his best work: “For my own part, I am pleased enough with surfaces – in fact they alone seem to be of much importance. Such things, for example, as sunlight on rocks and leaves, the feel of music, the bark of a tree, the abrasion of granite and sand, the plunge of clear water into a pool, the face of the wind – what else is there? What else do we need?” Mason’s photographs are not so much permanent records of events as they are delicate evocations of feeling.

Chris Regas

Chris Regas is a district manager for a pharmaceutical company; he takes most ot his photographs on weekends and vacations. He shoots anything that interests him – horses, dust storms, old cars, churches – and is currently preparing an exhibit of photographs of Russia (Afterimage, through August 2) and a book about Texas. He admits that he is still searching for a style that is truly his and finds that he is drawn most strongly to the work of Jerry Uelsmann and Duane Michals. Many of his recent photographs, like “Hitchcock’s House,” are more cerebral than anything he has done previously. Shots are pre-conceived, though not necessarily set up, and objects become as important for whatthey suggest as for what they are. Oneoften has the feeling that only part ofa story has been told and that behindthe image lies something mysteriousand even sinister. This feeling is conveyed sometimes by grainy film, toning, and double printing; at othertimes it comes from the oblique, off-center angle from which the pictureis taken. Like many local art photographers, Chris believes that theaudience for innovative contemporary photography in Dallas is limited.



Where to See Photography

Amon Carter Museum of Western Art, Fort Worth. Outstanding permanent collection that includes the work of William Henry Jackson, Ansel Adams, and Dorothea Lange. Shows: Frank Gohlke (Wichita Falls), through Aug 3. Bank Langmore (Dallas), “Big Bend,” Aug 8-Oct 5.

Fort Worth Art Museum. Exchange DFW/SFO (July 27-Sept 7) will feature Michael Kostiuk’s new work along with that of several San Francisco photographers.

Dallas Museum of Fine Arts, Fair Park. Shows: “Era of Exploration: The Rise of Landscape Photography in the American West,” July 23-Aug 31.

Wichita Falls Museum and Art Center, Wichita Falls. Shows: Chris Regas (Dallas), through Aug 2.

The Dallas Public Library (Central), Commerce Street often has photography shows in the Terrace Room featuring both local and nationally known photographers. Special Exhibit: “Chinese Photography Through the Lens of Francis Wu of Hong Kong,” July 23-Aug 23. Branch libraries often show the work of local photographers. The Afterimage, The Quadrangle, shows the work of Edward Weston, Ansel Adams, Eliot Porter, and many local photographers. Shows: Chris Regas and Paul Greenberg, “Images of Russia,” Aug 2. Shedrich Wil-liames, Aug 5-Aug 30.

Fairmount Gallery , 6040 Sherry Lane, features a show by DiAnne Malouf (Dallas), through July 30.

A complete list of area shows and contests is published in Where It’s At ($5.25 for 10 issues). Write to G. T. Jones, publisher, 7204 Bucknell Drive, Austin, Texas 7872:3.

The 1975 International Convention of the Photographic Society of America (PSA) will be held Aug 19-23 at the Statler Hilton Hotel. The convention is open to the public and will feature sixty-five different programs ranging from color printing to stereo techniques. There will also be exhibits and field trips. For information call J. Allen Ganna-way (352-1907). Obtain registration forms from Dardyn or Kathryn Ware, 3929 Shady Hill Drive, Dallas 75229. $15 for full convention, $7 per day for non-members.

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