I/Eye: On Photography

Photographers’ heaven…

Posted in Other Photographers by Sheila Newbery on April 27, 2011
from ''Bruce Wrighton: At Home", Laurence Miller Gallery, NYC

from ''Bruce Wrighton: At Home", Laurence Miller Gallery, NYC

Mulling over what shows to go see during an NYC pilgrimage next month, I’m thinking I’d better not miss Bruce Wrighton’s photographs at the Laurence Miller Gallery. Wrighton had a short, fruitful career, working by preference on an 8 x 10 camera, and he’s the only other photographer I know of — besides Steve Fitch — to have used the word dinosaur in the title of a project or monograph to refer to the (doomed) American romance with pistons and oil. His portraits have received favorable attention, but it’s his church pictures in particular that are a curious and entrancing revelation to me (no pun intended): funny, tender, and astute — and, thank goodness, not entirely immune to the lush excess of the devout mind’s eye.

from ''Bruce Wrighton: At Home", Laurence Miller Gallery, NYC

from ''Bruce Wrighton: At Home", Laurence Miller Gallery, NYC

Wrighton’s work hurtled briefly around the blogosphere several years ago, but the best, most eloquent words about him are to be found in a comment by ‘Thomas’ on Blake Andrews’ B: they’re a description of a photographic life well lived, and deserve to be quoted in full:

Bruce did good work that received a fair amount of local acclaim. Other things distracted attention away from him and his work.

He worked as a dishwasher and a cook in a restaurant. He took photos of shoes for a commercial catalog used by a local manufacturing concern. A person could write a nice dissertation on this exercise. It speaks to the core of his aesthetic sensibility. If nothing else, it might explain why he chose to work in a small, obscure, worn out, working class town. He was not unsophisticated or uneducated. To the contrary, he was uncanny in the way he combined personal vision with place. That characteristic made it possible for him to walk into a carnival and convince people to pose for him, in a genuine, expressive way.

If you want to know about Bruce, I suggest you take a trip to Binghamton. Many of the landmark buildings he photographed still linger and may be said to endure, in various states of collapse or disrepair.

Bruce worked at the Roberson Museum. He worked at the Whole in the Wall. He worked at the University. He worked free lance. He waited tables at the best restaurants in town. He understood how light works in the Southern Tier. He had a deep allegiance to the Finger Lakes region. He loved the twilight. He respected poverty, in all of its forms. He was a monk and a minister. As said elsewhere, he died for light.

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