I/Eye: On Photography

Exhibit at the PhotoLab Gallery, Berkeley, CA

Posted in Uncategorized by Sheila Newbery on December 23, 2009

I’m pleased to announce an upcoming show of my work, Ordinary Dancers & Selected Portraits, opening at the PhotoLab Gallery, 2235 Fifth Street, Berkeley, CA, January 16, 2010, with a reception from 3–5pm. On view through February 27.

Dancing couple (Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil, 2009) © Sheila Newbery

Ordinary Dancers was shot in the south of Brazil in 2008; it takes the viewer to the lively dance halls of a town in Rio Grande do Sul where social dancing to a live band is still an important part of life. The pictures are in two groups: archival digital prints from medium-format color negatives and copper-toned silver gelatin prints from 35mm black-and-white negatives. To get into a Brazilian dance hall with a tripod and camera, you need to be on good terms with the security contingent hired to supervise the event…and you need to be prepared to sacrifice your ear-drums to the sheer volume emanating from the 6 foot-high speakers.

The pictures themselves are quiet: they focus on the rapport and intimacy of ordinary couples as conveyed through the gestures of the dance. The figures take me back to much older representations of dancers — ones I’ve seen on codexes, frescoes and urns.

Also featured in this exhibit is a selection of portraits. I make portraits with cameras ranging from an 8×10 Deardorff and a 5×7 Kodak Century View (wooden field cameras with bellows) to smaller medium-format cameras. Part of this year’s experimentation has been in the darkroom: I inherited a stock of beautiful, ‘antique’ photographic papers and have been exploring their unique textures and tonal range. Of course, just as one develops a true understanding of and affection for their idiosyncrasies, sadly — poignantly — the stock runs out!

If you’re in Berkeley on the 16th, please do come by the gallery for a visit and a glass of wine!

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