By Joe Kashi, for the Redoubt Reporter
Fine art photography has thrived on the Kenai Peninsula for many years, and that’s been again confirmed by the works selected for exhibition in Rarefied Light 2014, the annual statewide, juried photography exhibit now on display at Kenai Peninsula College’s Gary L. Freeburg Gallery.
Each year, Rarefied Light’s primary exhibition opens at either the Anchorage Museum or the Contemporary Art Gallery on D Street in Anchorage. The show then travels to Fairbanks and Soldotna, with KPC the only nonurban venue. That’s fitting, because KPC offered one of the first digital arts degree programs in the U.S.
Rarefied Light 2014 received mixed praise from the Anchorage paper’s arts critic, who alleged that the show’s selections too closely mirrored the juror’s own work, portraits of one woman facing the camera. Personally, I believe that criticism is unfair because this show has a very broad range of styles and participants.
Inevitably, of course, the selections in a show mirror a juror’s own preference about what makes a good photograph. Otherwise, the juror would not be making similar images herself. As with all art, most juried shows tend to reflect current fads, which come and go. A really good juror can see beyond fads and their own style and value a broad variety of work.
That occurred in selecting Rarefied Light 2014 and makes it even more worthwhile to visit. There are 53 good-quality works nicely exhibited at KPC despite the currently small gallery space. Too often, and Thursday’s opening was no exception, some people tend to rush in, look for two or three minutes, and then rush out. That’s about four seconds per image, scarcely time to read the label, let alone immerse one’s self in the image. Rather, take a second look, linger over images that strike a chord with you, and try to understand intuitively what the photographer saw and felt at the time.
We’ve reproduced in this article all of the selected work by peninsula photographers, but you really should see the show yourself. The low resolution and color reproduction inherent to newsprint does not do justice to these works.
Linda Smogor, of Homer, was awarded Best of Show for her photograph of her daughter, Sadie, Illustration 1. This photograph is in the classic tradition of interpretative portraiture and it’s worthy as Best in Show. Smogor also won Best of Show several years ago. After viewing it several times, I find myself very drawn to it.
The other photo of an individual woman facing the camera is an Honorable Mention, “Free,” by Javid Kamali, an Intensive Care Unit physician at Providence Hospital. This is a lovely and powerful photograph of a dancer that immediately attracted me. I regret that its location at the gallery made it impossible to photograph without too many distracting reflections from the cover glass. You’ll just have to take a personal look.
A very different style can be seen in Illustration 2, “Grewingk Glacier No. 3,” a classic landscape by M. Scott Moon, of Kenai. I found the textured nature of the glacial ice outlined by the many lines of dark rock debris to result in an interesting graphical style that’s quite appealing in a landscape photograph.
Wade Wahrenbrock, of Soldotna, took a very different view of ice and landscape with his “Intimate View,” today’s Illustration 3. Too often, people photograph a very wide-angle view of a landscape that ends up looking flat and boring. Wade has taken the opposite approach, finding intrinsic meaning in a close-up that gives a sense of the whole, rather like the maxim about finding an ocean or a Niagara Falls in a drop of water.
Tricia Sadler, of Soldotna, made “Thinly Veiled,” Illustration 4, using fog as negative space to good effect in her well-made, mid-distance landscape photo. Not uncommonly, as here, veiling detail can be more visually powerful.
Another good example is “Coming into Focus,” by Alisah Kress, of Soldotna, Illustration 5. In this photograph, nothing is truly in focus nor sharp. The effect, though, is a pleasing abstraction of soft shapes and powerful colors.
Illustration 6, “Just Out of Reach,” by Ray Lee, my kid and the Redoubt Reporter’s occasional photography judge, is less traditional, a color image that blends shadows and directly viewed objects, appearing monochromatic, with a modernist edginess.
Illustration 7, my own image “Drifting the Kenai No. 2,” was, at least to me, somewhat intermediate among many of these photos, a backlit foggy color image that appears monochromatic and in which all the various elements, including the darkly silhouetted fishermen in the boat, mainly serve as graphic elements rather than direct subjects.
The show is up and available to the public without charge through early February at KPC during regular college hours.
Local attorney Joe Kashi received degrees from MIT and his law
degree from Georgetown University. He has published many articles about computer technology, law practice and digital photography in national media since 1990. Many of his technology and photography articles can be accessed through his website, http://www.kashilaw.com.