A moss-stained, vine-draped wall creates the illusion of water reflected. A steel-eyed sheepdog gazes intently from the side of a mountain road. An enormous, pale-skinned woman lies beached on the Mexican sand as vendors kneel around her, offering jewelry and gigantic cocktails. Olympic divers become a swirl of brilliant color on a television screen. Empty parking ramps reveal their architectural secrets, taking on surreal shapes and geometric forms in black-and-white contrast.
These literal images are just a few that were on display — each briefly — during a photography “salon” hosted by accomplished photographer Wing Young Huie at his Seward studio in February. More than 20 budding, experienced and professional photographers gathered to share their work and their thoughts and to discuss a range of themes, tips and techniques on the topic of taking pictures.
Huie, who has held the salons in the past, restarted the monthly gatherings in January after a brief hiatus, largely at the prompting of interested shutterbugs. The recent round has a little different format and has drawn more participants than in the past, when five–10 people would gather around a table and discuss prints.
Now, most photos are brought in as digital files and projected on a screen, and Huie opens the salons with a presentation and discussion about a photographer, issue or topic. The February salon featured the work of Philadelphia photographer Zoe Smith, whose photo-journalism style, capturing streetlife and individuals, is similar to Huie’s own shots taken along public thoroughfares of Minneapolis and St. Paul.
The better part of the three-hour salon (which ran into a fourth hour in February) is spent viewing the work of the assembled photographers, who range in experience from amateurs and longtime enthusiasts to art teachers and professionals. Each, said Huie, brings a unique style and valuable insight to the salon.
Two longtime salon participants exemplify the breadth of style exhibited at the monthly meetings. Since last April, Seward resident Jennifer Larson has taken at least one photo a day with her digital camera and posted them on her “photo-a-day” blog, www.jenniferlarson.wordpress.com. The visual diary includes photos of her family, neighborhood, community and natural surroundings and others, like the photos from a trip to Mexico she shared at the salon. Some are artfully composed, others are more candid, and all are crisp and colorful representations of the life around her. (Larson’s yearlong experiment will end at the end of the month, although she will continue to post photos — just not every day.)
By contrast, Prospect Park resident Jerilynn Hanson hasn’t entered the digital age, but rather shoots on film, developing her photos and creating hard-copy prints. At the February salon, fellow photographers became human easels, displaying large prints of Hanson’s recent photos from Oaxaca, Mexico — street scenes with stenciled graffiti, architecture shots and isolated forms resembling paintings, all of them framing the colorful city according to Hanson’s particular eye in soft, watercolor-like tones.
Prints of Hanson’s work will be on display until mid-April at Jay’s Café, 791 Raymond Ave., just across Highway 280 in St. Paul.
Nelson’s and Hanson’s photos — like those of everyone who showed work at the February salon — sparked thoughtful discussion. The atmosphere is informal — more a collective discussion than a lecture from Huie or straight critique, which Huie said can be “pretty harsh” (although some photographers welcome it).
“I don’t have any expectations,” said Huie. “I don’t want to say, ‘this is good; this is bad.’ Even with my own work, I don’t like to think about quality.”
The discussion, he said, is “a balance between giving good feedback and being honest without … being judgmental.
“It seems like the dialogue is always good,” he said. “Sometimes someone who’s not experienced can say something more insightful than someone who does this all the time.”
Discussion at the February salon ranged from the philosophical to the practical — topics like the balance between life and work and the relation of reality to the captured image — and of the photographer to his or her subject.
“I felt like the energy in the room, and the exchange of ideas, was invigorating,” said Huie, acknowledging that he, too, learns from the experience.
Ultimately, he said, the people who bring their photos to the salons are not that much different from himself.
“It’s not like I have this great eye,” said Huie. “I just do it all the time.” And that, he said is the major point: “to be productive.”
Productivity is an ongoing goal of this year’s salons. Participants may work on a project, and their work will be exhibited in a collective show at Huie’s gallery in the fall.
The salons take place on the last Saturday of each month, 10 a.m.–1 p.m., at Wing Young Huie’s studio and gallery, 2525 E. Franklin Ave. The salons, which cost $20 and are capped at 20 people per session, may be full from month to month. For information, email email@example.com. Visit www.wingyounghuie.com to learn more about Huie or see images of his work.
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