Art view by Paulette Thenhaus


People like pictures




Eleven regional photojournalists are showing it all at the Buchanan Center for the Arts in Monmouth through February 14, 2009. Sports, Politics, Entertainment, Community, Travel, and more are all documented in this expansive exhibit.

Why do people look at a photo of an event before they read the story? Because it is immediate and it gives the story in a nutshell. It allows more for interpretation than words do. People like pictures.

Photos are the "business" of the professionals in this exhibit, but art is not in the backseat. Light, color, composition and the rest of the art elements are all considered by these masters of successful picture-making. Very few of the photographs are mundane or ordinary; most reflect the photographer’s interest and, maybe, personality.

Some of the images we've seen in print, many have never been published. Most of the artist groupings have a sprinkling of both. The variety is applaudable.

There are a few photojournalists whose body of work focuses on a particular theme. It's those photographs I will comment on.

MARY LEE PATTERSON "On the Roof at Home Saiq #1" was made in the southeast Arabian peninsula. Taken with Kodacrome (slide) film, at just the right second to capture a local woman entering the street. This was/is in a place where women are not commonly photographed outside of the home ... and by another woman, no less. Because of the film used and processing, the color in the series is soft. The images have a romantic feel. Though taken for a West Coast journal the photographs were never published ... a real shame.

KEN EXUM "San Francisco Pride Parade, 2007" series, certainly heats up the exhibit and reveals it all. I remember the word "gay" being part of the parade title but I guess now everyone can join in regardless of sexual orientation. In scant bead bikinis the "Brazilian Dancers" gesture to the rhythm of the music ... like the Second Line Parade in New Orleans. The photos are feisty, festive and very "hot."

NORM WINICK Photojournalist and Editor of the Zephyr focuses on community events but more so on politics in his exhibit. "The Obama Family" is a portrait of the soon to be First Family. It was made early in the presidential campaign in Springfield, Illinois. It is a prize-winner that deserves more exposure. From a stone doorway the family, with both daughters, wave to onlookers. The composition is excellent. The contrast of white against dark makes the eldest daughter stand out, dead center, instead of Barack. It's the type of unposed portrait of family members reminiscent of those of the John F. Kennedy family.

GLEEBECK Most intriguing in this show is one of the last photographs by a Westerner of the infant Paweo Rinpoche (whose name means "Blessed One") before this spiritually important child disappeared. Gleebeck is on a physical and spiritual journey to distant places, and his photographs journal it.

KENT KRIEGSHAUSER Events big, small and tragic fill this Register-Mail photojournalist’s viewfinder. In "Onlookers at Construction Site Fire," a large 30" x 40" print, eight onlookers are black silhouettes, blurred against a solid orange background. His "CSC Nursing Students Prior to Graduation Ceremony" is visual tongue-in-cheek humor at its best. In the photo the students are actually sneaking a last minute smoke.

TOM FOLEY Along with his photographic contributions to the community, Foley also has an active arts and music e-mail list of area events. Foley is documenting Blues musicians and travels to them. On display is a top quality assortment of the "band." "Robert Belforer at Cat Head Clarksdale, MI" is a straightforward portrait of a longtime Bluesman playing one of his two pictured guitars. The photo is cropped tight but not so much as to exclude the Bluesman's down-home environment.

SCOTT SPITZER His photographs of community events bring a small town to life. He claims that as one saves family photos in an album, he saves community images for the community in the newspaper.

John Vellenga, himself a photographer, curated this impressive show of eleven photojournalists. He also wrote an insightful statement on the history of photojournalism. Each photographer has a personal statement mounted next to his/her display.

There's much to digest in words and pictures. Have a look. Maybe you're in the frame.