VISIONS

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THE COMPETITION- A cluster of images that portrays the various stages of a competition (Michael C. Lam/VISIONS Exhibition 2018 photo)

Pushing the frontier of photography as an art form

PHOTOGRAPHS have the ability to freeze a moment and quite possibly preserve it for all eternity. A good photograph- whether it captures something good, bad or ugly- should invoke some feeling that makes you ponder over the situation the moment it is captured.

But quite often, photographs are taken just for their face value, according to local photographer Michael Lam. Most times, it’s about whether it is pretty or a cool image as against it being a fragment of something bigger, portraying a wider narrative.

But photographers (and artists generally) look at their art differently. And it is the yearning to make others understand their art that led to the creation of the “VISIONS” photo exhibition.

Lam, one of the main drivers of the exhibition, highlighted: “[The primary reason for the exhibition] was to have a showcase for photography as art in an exhibition format, to introduce the photographers and the viewing public to a curated exhibition rather than a competition format, and to encourage photographers and viewers to approach art in a different way.”

STOIC- One cluster of images at the gallery (Michael C. Lam /VISIONS Exhibition 2018 photo)

In a snapshot, the exhibition was created to provide an opportunity to look at photography through the different lenses of the mind.

The exhibition is being hosted at Michael Griffith’s ‘Oxygen Arts’ Gallery. It is a small gallery that is typical of the art world- a snow white space, spacious enough for free movement but also enclosed to foster a more intimate setting.

Its location in Industry, on the East Coast of Demerara (ECD), seems unlikely since you have to go through narrow roads that would cause you to question if you were heading in the right direction. But perhaps, that is a necessary precursor to experiencing the exhibition that would follow.

Thirty photographers submitted about 137 images. Of that lot, 30 images were selected from about 15 photographers. Some artists managed to scrape in a single piece, while some others had multiple pieces.

Each piece was printed as a Gallery Wrap: Canvas on pinewood frames, at a size of 16”x 24”. But here’s where things get interesting. The images are arranged in clusters, under a specific theme. Without the curator’s little notes to guide you, you might not be able to understand how the images relate to each other in the clusters. And even with the notes (which are provided, by the way), it might still take further explanation for you to truly grasp the vision.

Take ‘The Competition’ for example. It combines a home decorated with diyas, a masquerade band, the famous GT rodeo, and two distinct photos of birding in Guyana- into a cluster. The curator asks that you understand how the different phases of a competition are portrayed through these five images. Would you have garnered that this was the underlying significance?

It was this careful ingenuity that guided the creation of VISIONS in 2016.

During that year, the then Ministry of Culture conceived ‘Capture Guyana 2016’, a curated exhibition which, for some reason or the other, fell through. In an attempt to salvage this, few local photographers joined forces, Lam explained.

Michael is the organiser but Karran Sahadeo has been and continues to be the curator- arguably, the man with the ‘VISION’.

At the gallery, Karran harnesses the photos taken together by local photographers and frames them his own way. Keno George’s “Indigenous Way” is juxtaposed with Trevon Barker’s “African Power”- under Karran’s theme of “Stoic”. But there’s also Darrell Carpenay’s “Dawn Dance”- which illustrates hundreds of birds in a thick fog flying next to a colossal mountain and Meshach Pierre’s “Face Off” of two caged birds. And seemingly out-of-the-ordinary,is Kenny Harrinaraine’s “Astro”- the cinema, or at least what used to be a cinema.

Sahadeo explains: “Standing unmoved and without emotions is what links this series, but upon closer observation, you will notice the formal elements which appear from one element to the next.”

The display runs from December 1 to 15, at the gallery and then will be shown at The Duke, (the Restaurant / Art Gallery at Duke Lodge) from the December 17 to the 29.

And if you’re empathetic to the plight of artists in Guyana, you would appreciate that the exhibition fully catered for them. All the local photographers needed to do was to select few of their own images and digitally submit them to the team.

“Artists, on the whole, are not usually flush with cash,” Michael noted and explained, “Our approach was to remove the burden of production [by acquiring] enough sponsorship to produce the pieces and partner with exhibition spaces which are artist-friendly, who worked with us for the love of the art rather than for profit.”