Monday, July 22, 2013

Announcement: New Call for Work!

Deadline: September 19
Exhibition: October 30 – November 30
Opening Reception: November 6

Reconstructing Nature, Blue Mitchell

The world is a colorful place. Despite this, photographers often chose to excise color from the world they capture. Artists working in black and white eliminate the complexities of color to accentuate form, composition, and lighting. Personalities and events are made more compelling and powerful. The world desaturated is in some ways made more vivid. For Grayscale, The Kiernan gallery seeks photographs of any subject matter that use and celebrate the vibrancy of monochrome. 
Alternative processes, digital, and traditional, and toned images are all eligible. 

About the Juror
Blue Mitchell is the Founding Editor of Diffusion: Unconventional Photography, an independent, reader and contributor supported annual that highlights and celebrates unconventional photographic processes and photo related artwork. In addition to organizing and curating physical exhibitions around the country, Mitchell curates Plates to Pixels, an online photographic gallery that bridges the gap between antiquated photographic processes and new digital media. He is a fine art photographer, educator, and graphic designer currently serving on the Board of Directors for Newspace Center for Photography in Portland, Oregon. Mitchell also teaches classes at the Oregon College of Arts and Craft's studio school.

For more information and to see submission guidelines visit:

Monday, July 15, 2013

Portfolio Showcase Artists: Joseph D.R. O'Leary

Joseph D.R. O'Leary at the opening reception of Portfolio Showcase 2013.

Whether in painting or photography, Joseph D.R. O’Leary has always loved portraiture. He finds himself attracted to images that “hint at the life, interests, or story of an individual.” Though portraits have always had a significant role in photography, the contemporary practice of studio photography seems to have fallen out of vogue in favor of environmental portraits. O’Leary’s gorgeously rich series, Of Beards and Men, has renewed the appreciation for beautifully lit portraits for non-commercial purposes. The entire series is made up of 130+ portraits of men with beards. On the surface, this theme is a documentation of the current trend of facial hair that has become an overplayed motif of hipster-dom. But on a deeper level, the work is cohesive and fascinating, telling stories and creating characters.

Jake B. 127

I was looking for a commonality that would "make it easy" for an average guy to want to step in front of the camera for longer than a simple candid. Men with beards are proud of their facial hair. It's a brotherhood. The idea of focusing on beards seems to put the average guy at ease; because it is perceived that the session is not about "him", but rather "his beard"— he's just along for the ride. Incidentally, the man behind the beard ends up taking center stage.
Nicholas K. 84

O’Leary’s goal was to make each of his portraits tell a story. “I want all the men I photographed to be proud of their portrait. Often my portraits are taken from a low angle; this is an intentional vantage point as I want the viewer to sense this person is ‘larger than life’.” The fact that his prints are 24”x33” definitely also helps convey that “larger than life” feeling. Although The Kiernan Gallery has only seven of these large print on display as part of its second annual Portfolio Showcase, the full project on can be viewed online. O’Leary would also like to make the images available in print as a book, for which he has recently launched a Kickstarter campaign.

Nicholas G. 140

Though Of Beards and Men has been garnering a lot of positive attention, O’Leary does not see this project fitting neatly into the contemporary art scene just yet. He is concerned that polished studio photography is not accepted as fine art, but is instead viewed as purely “commercial work” because it lacks the “reality” of some street or documentary photography. “Perhaps the environment is less ‘real’, but there's almost an exaggerated ‘realness’ that seems to emerge.” Thrilled by the evolution of this series, O’Leary sees success as a state of mind, “I just want to create work that moves or excites me — that's success.”

Andrew 205

The Of Beards and Men Kickstarter campaign is open through August 16, 2013.

Of Beards and Men is part of The Kiernan Gallery’s second annual Portfolio Showcase, on view through July 27, 2013.

Friday, July 12, 2013

John N. Wall

The Kiernan Gallery is pleased to have photographer/blogger/educator John N. Wall as juror for our upcoming exhibition Eye on the Street.

You run a very successful blog on Southern photography. What is it about photographers from the south or southern subject matter that appeals to you?

First of all, thank you for the complement! I started the blog for very personal reasons, especially as a way for me to learn about photography in the American South. I thought that if I had an audience I was responsible to, that would be a good discipline for me. I would keep at the work of learning and reporting because there were people who were paying attention. That’s worked out pretty well over the last couple of years, and I’m always pleased to learn that folks find the blog useful and engaging.

To get back to your real question, however. I think part of what makes us human is that we make meaning of our thoughts and experiences. As Southerners, we have our history that is both burden and challenge that every generation of Southerners must come to terms with, in some way. As Southern photographers we make meaning with our photographs of our own personal experiences of the distinctive history and culture of the South.

I define Southern photography very broadly. Basically, for me, if photographers are living and working in the South, they are Southern photographers.  And, in fact, photographers in the South are up to a wide range of things in their work. That said, I do think that Southern photographers tend to deal in their work with history and the land, and with family relationships, and with the role of religion, race, and class in the South’s distinctive history. If photographers who are, as we say, Not From Around Here, still deal with these issues in their work, I think them of as Honorary Southern Photographers.

These concerns seem to be more important for fine art photographers in the South than for photographers working elsewhere. Other folks seem engaged in making images to explore concepts or ideas, or in creating scenarios to photograph; we are still saying, “Look, notice this, this is here, this is happening,” still trying to figure out who and where we are and how we got here.

30% Off

Street photograph is a quick-reflex way of photographing. Describe your process and mental state when you go out into the world to make photographs.

I think making art in general is about carrying on a conversation between form and content, between composition and subject matter, between what you show and how you arrange things in the frame. I think that’s what Gary Winogrand was talking about when he said he photographed to see what things looked like when they were photographed.  The photographer brings the frame in the camera, and looks for what to put the frame around, and from what point of view.

The challenge in street photography is to conduct that conversation on the fly.  The world around us, in the street or wherever, is infinitely rich and various, and full of the familiar and of surprises. Roland Barthes said a good photograph combines something generally interesting with something arresting, momentary, striking, compelling.

I think there are lots of approaches to effective street photography, but they all involve collaboration, observation, engagement, and responsiveness. Sometimes, it’s about being alert in a busy situation to what’s happening out there, and about being ready for what Cartier-Bresson called the critical moment. Sometimes it’s about choosing a background or setting or situation and waiting for interesting interactions to develop. Sometimes it’s about engaging with people in a setting and photographing their reaction to my presence. Sometimes it’s about having in advance an idea of the subject matter one wants to explore and looking for aspects of that subject to unfold in front of me.

I think, with time and experience, one becomes aware of the framing that is going to happen, aware of the perspective one brings to the situation, aware of the light and the photographic process, and can anticipate what subject and moment will result in a compelling image. But, absolutely necessary, is an openness to surprise, to serendipity, to opportunity, to discovery.  

Guy in Cap

Where do you see street photography fitting into the contemporary art world?

This is complicated. I must admit that street photography is not as much at the center of fine art photography as it once was.

I knew street photography as a practice had entered into a new phase when I saw that photographers like Jeff Wall (no relation, as far as I know) were spending lots of time and large sums of money contriving to make images that looked like street photographs, but were made with such high production values that they could be blown up to enormous size and still be tack-sharp and grain-free.

I’m thinking especially of images like Wall’s Mimic (1982). The technical achievement in this work is considerable. Yet the concept of contrived spontaneity seems simultaneously so dependent on the work of street photography yet deeply counter to the tradition of its practice.

Wall’s – and others’ -- success with this kind of image opened up a big gulf between what real street photographers could achieve and what seemed now to be required for display in galleries and for commanding the big pay days that Jeff Wall has been pulling down throughout most of his career.

The grand tradition of street photography is very much about being there, right at that moment, and making art out of that moment and that place. You’ve got the grand tradition that is tied to the 35 mm camera, and to black and white film, and to names like Cartier-Bresson, Robert Frank, Gary Winogrand, and Helen Levitt.  That involved almost of necessity a lot of grain and a relatively small format for printing one’s images.

The South has always been a major setting for street photography; think of the work of Walker Evans, Dorothea Lange, and Marion Post Wolcott for the WPA during the Great Depression. That certainly continues. But the biggest single change has been the development of color street photography, a sign of the continuing influence of that great Southern photographer William Eggleston.

I think photographers are still absorbing the consequences of the technological revolution in photography, the capacity, now, for photographers to take into the street cameras that can transcend the limitations of the 35 mm format and high speed film.

There are still lots of fine photographers working in the South who do street or street-style photography. Their work is worthy of renown. Their subject is endlessly engaging and compelling. The rapidly-developing urban South still seeks its visionary interpreters and documentarians.

Living in the Gaze

As an artist and educator of documentary photography, how do you think your own aesthetics and your views as a teacher will influence your selections?

I will be looking for images that stand on their own as compelling images. I will be looking for images that, as we said before, show us engaging or compelling worlds, but also have that moment of surprise or wonder or delight.

I think the kind of images one gets when practicing street photography and those appropriate for documentary photography projects obviously have much in common, but there is a different goal for each practice. Both are about bearing witness, about demonstrating that one was there when this happened and can share through the resulting image an experience of that moment.

Street photography can stop with the engaging result of the photographer’s having been there. The work of the street photographer can result in a large body of work, which can be organized around a subject or a particular style or vision, or it can stop with the individual image, complete in itself.

In the case of documentary photography, the overall goal is to tell a story, or to witness to an unfolding situation, so at least some of the images in a body of documentary work are there to address needs like the need for context or setting or perspective or continuity. All the images in a body of documentary work need to be strong, and individual photographs from a body of documentary work may stand on their own. But some of the images are more about supplementing or filling in or completing the larger story than they are about depicting complete worlds on their own.

Basket Maker

Finally, we ask this of all of our artists, what does success in art mean to you?

Yes, well, as in most things, “success” is a complicated concept, one that can be – and probably ought to be – looked at from several perspectives simultaneously.  Success for me is about what it takes to keep at things over time, to maintain a practice, to develop a craft, to sustain an interest and a commitment.

Traditionally, there are at least three ways of recognizing success in the arts. There is the romantic view of success in terms of achieving personal goals, making work that is personally meaningful, satisfying, and fulfilling, or at least trying to, and always having the achievement just beyond one’s grasp, a constant incentive to make more work. 

The second is the classical view, which has more to do with making work that measures up to received standards, that exhibits high achievement in technique, in craft, in knowledge of the tradition of artistic practice one is participating in, and one’s place in that tradition. This is where concepts of what it means to be a professional come into play, along with concepts of audience, critical reception, and external recognition.

The third, now that we have gotten from the personal and intrinsic reward to the social and external reward is the pragmatic view, involving exhibitions, grants, galleries, reviews, and sales.  In short, marketing.  I’ve heard it said that people who aspire to careers in the arts should pursue MBAs instead of MFAs, that success in the arts is more about identifying what is marketable and producing it than it is about developing a personal vision or adhering to high professional standards in one’s practice.

I think success in the arts is about some mix of all of these. I think making art is in part about personal fulfillment; one keeps at this practice because it is how someone makes meaning of personal experience in a way that satisfies and rewards the practitioner in a deeply personal way.  It is also in part about development of a professional identity, which is about living into, and up to, a socially recognized standard of production and conduct of a career. That involves, inevitably, the question of whether one is recognized and affirmed as someone doing something valuable by an audience of informed observers, as recognized by reviews and sales.

I of course think of success in terms of personal satisfaction first, that making art is primarily about achieving one’s own vision of the art one wants to make. But I also think it would be especially difficult to sustain the kind of practice that satisfies in the long run without some degree of external recognition, of affirmation, of support.

The deadline to submit to Eye on the Street is July 25. Visit for more information.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Portfolio Showcase Artists: Christopher Capozziello

Thirteen years ago Christopher Capozziello began photographing his twin brother, Nick, and how his life has been affected by cerebral palsy. Though he was initially making these images without an agenda, a narrative began to develop and ten years later, encouraged by colleagues and friends, Capozziello began to place them into a moving documentary series. The Distance Between Us examines not only Nick’s pain and frustration with his illness, but also the close relationship between the brothers.

A working photojournalist, Capozziello considers himself a documentary photographer at heart. His series always begin with questions looking for answers. “When I look over the other long form stories I’ve focused on, I can see that I’ve always been interested in learning something and taking a deeper look at different facets of life.” The Distance Between Us is a deeper look at a more personal subject matter.

In some way, through stories, we all try and work out our own issues, and our own questions; at least I am. I think I'm doing that with a little part of every story I take on and I think that Nick’s and mine has really been the catalyst for my other work. As a child, I would sit and stare at the larger-than-life crucifix during Saturday Mass and wonder, ‘Why did you let this happen to my brother? Why do you let it happen to anyone?’

Capozziello is not the first to ask these questions. White no photograph could answer why Nick’s life is the way it is, in these images we see instead how his life is lived. At home, in public, in the hospitals, alone as well as interacting with others, Capoziello makes a compassionate record of his brother’s days. As Vicki Goldberg said, “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…”

Contemporary documentary photography sometimes struggles to find its place in the gallery world. Not all work is intended to be purchased to hang on a living room wall, but there is beauty and understanding to be found in even the most uncomfortable of images. Capozziello, like many of his contemporaries hopes that, “…work like this will ultimately be embraced by the art world. That embrace means a more thoughtful and deeper conversation will be extended to a greater number of people about the issues that story telling can provide us with.”

Regardless, Capozziello is pleased with every chance he gets to share his work with an audience. “If that’s in a magazine or on a gallery wall, I feel I'm making progress. It’s this continual act of creating and sharing that makes me grateful.” We are grateful to Christopher and to Nick for allowing us to view their world, to think critically, and to understand; and the beautifully hand-printed silver gelatin images are welcomed into our white-walled gallery.

The Distance Between Us is part of the second annual Portfolio Showcase, on view through July 27, 2013. 

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Portfolio Showcase Artists: Geoffrey Agrons

While living on the cost of New Jersey, Geoffrey Agrons began making pictures of the shoreline near his home. Rather than focusing on conventional postcard-ready imagery of these resort towns, he chose to create images of the unglamorous pilings, emptiness, and decay that are often overlooked.

"I found I had a deep emotional investment in the peculiar seasonal pulse of a resort town, the passing time marked by the predictable influx of summer tourists and their retreat in winter. The collective assumption of timelessness and renewal struck me as poignant, and perhaps a bit absurd."

After the Money's Gone

Agrons’ series, Hazardous Shorelines, evolved from these observations, becoming a haunting commentary on man’s relationship with nature as well as society. The stillness in these images underscores the fragility of an unpopulated town and evokes the “emotional vocabulary of dreams: longing and apprehension, the need to linger and observe, the urge to flee.” It also emphasizes the transient nature of life. “In time I came to realize that my work in general was informed by evanescence, transformation, and loss.” The new growth of trees mimics the decaying man-made structures in stature, reminding the viewer of summer, when the tourists return and bring life to the shore as winter fades.


To heighten the ethereal quality of these settings, Agrons photographs with long exposures at times of the day when the light is most extreme, occasionally employing neutral density filters to create slightly surreal imagery that integrates his memories and experiences. He returns to the same locations during various seasons and tides. This repetition allows for a more complete representation of his emotional response to “the material in the field.”

Player Piano III

In her description of Hazardous Shorelines, Vicki Goldberg commented that Agrons’ decaying piers “resemble Japanese gates and hold up nothing, merely producing tremulous reflections in water, as if a brush had wavered on wet paper.” While not produced with a brush, Agrons’ images are printed with pigment ink on beautifully textured handmade Japanese paper.


Though he does not foresee himself embracing the burgeoning online art world any time soon, Agrons is pleased with his work and the direction that his career is taking. “I find it deeply satisfying to have the opportunity to exhibit framed prints in the company of other photographers I admire.” We are excited to present his work, beautifully printed and framed, next to the other wonderful photographers in this year’s Portfolio Showcase.

House of Games

Hazardous Shorelines is part of the second annual Portfolio Showcase, on view through
July 27, 2013.