The great thing about a show like Photocentric is the sheer variety. You have photographers just starting out. You have photographers at mid-career. You have amateurs with a good eye. You even have a few established sorts. And you have a bunch of different styles and subjects, from hunting enthusiasts to small-town beauty queens, suburbs to housing projects. It’s a bit of a visual joyride.
The Minnesota Center for Photography puts on consistently great shows these days. Since moving to its Northeast location a few years back, the organization has come into its own as a true regional hub for the photographic arts. So you might be tempted to think of Photocentric (MCP’s annual juried member show) as a nice nod to its mission, but not in the same league with its other shows. As it turns out, this would be a poor assumption. The bar is set very high.
You can measure the quality of a juried show a few ways: quantitatively (Photocentric features 60 works from 51 artists from a pool of 706 entries); qualitatively (Lisa Hostetler of the Milwaukee Art Museum judged the entries); or purely subjectively (I stopped to give my full attention to more than a dozen images).
The pieces in the show come from members who live within 525 miles of the center—about a day’s drive in any direction (Chicago, Madison, Milwaukee, Fargo, etc.). The idea is to highlight the quality (and quantity!) of work happening in the Upper Midwest.
So exactly what kind of work are we talking about? Brian Lesterberg and Brian Ulrich—both included in Photo District News’ "30 New and Emerging Photographers to Watch 2007"—were represented, as were veteran photographers Dona Schwartz and Chuck Avery. Evan Baden’s “Live With Nintendo” (left) shows a freckle-faced girl under a blanket “tent” illuminated by the screen of a handheld game. Todd Deutsch’s “Halo 2” offers a different take on gaming with young men in an all-but-empty room, joysticks in hand, eyes forward, mouths slightly agape. Both were selected for the Walker’s collection, which is pretty impressive all by itself.
But the truly great thing about a show like this is the possibility of being blown away by the work of people you’ve never heard of before. Knowing the images were selected solely based on merit and not on reputation makes it all the more compelling. Laura Miliorino’s “Egret Street” is one good example (of many). The image, from her Secret Suburbs series, shows a family posed behind glass, reflecting a nondescript suburban house and lawn. Carrie Stewart’s “Bomb 2006” (left, top) offers a study in point of view, in this case from the level of a diner counter.
And Jason Reblando’s “Baseball” (left, bottom) triptych of two kids posing, gloves on, faces defiant, in front of a housing project, deserves mention too. But don’t take my word for it, see for yourself. The show’s on through May 27.
Photos courtesy of the artists and of the Minnesota Center for Photography.