New light

Contemporary technology used to make traditional look

Posted: Thursday, January 13, 2005


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  Jay Barrett of Kenai is the only Kenai Peninsula photographer to have work picked for this year's "Rarified Light" show. His "Receiving Line," above, is one of many black-and-white photos in this year's show.

Jay Barrett of Kenai is the only Kenai Peninsula photographer to have work picked for this year's "Rarified Light" show. His "Receiving Line," above, is one of many black-and-white photos in this year's show.

Once again, "Rarefied Light" sheds light on what's new with Alaska photographers.

The show, a juried exhibition put on by the Alaska Photographic Center and open to Alaska photographers, tends to have an artistic bent, letting photographers experiment, bend rules and generally push the boundaries of the photographic medium.

As such, the show generally includes more mixed-media pieces than would be found in more traditional photography shows. This year's is no exception, including a fiber piece, a 3-D sculpture and the best in show award winner, "Vespertine" by Lisa Ballard — a combination painting and photograph of an ethereal woman with head tilted down and indefinite body merging with the background.

"It is, in my opinion, the best we've had in three years," said Jayne Jones, photography professor at Kenai Peninsula College, where the show is on display. "I was very impressed with the diversity and quality of work in the show."

Though known for its artistic leanings, this year's "Rarefied Light" includes more traditional photography, especially scenic shots and black-and-whites, than past shows.

"The emphasis seemed to be on straight photography without a lot of cheap theatrics," said Jay Barrett of Kenai, who has two pieces in the show. "... I think it's great that traditional photography showed so well. I don't know whether it's a backlash or what, but it's nice to see."


"Vespertine," by Lisa Ballard, received the best of show award in this year's "Rarified Light."

Celia Anderson, head of the art department at the college, said she was interested to see the abundance of black-and-white photography in this year's show, especially the pieces that utilized digital technology.

"It looks to be a more traditional show but with more contemporary output," Anderson said.

The trend toward digital output is one that continues from the last "Rarefied Light" show. The pieces are a testament to how far digital technology has come in the realm of photography.

"One of the amazing things is the quality of tonal range the photographers are getting with images done though digital printing," she said.

As many pieces in "Rarefied Light" show, the line between film and digital photography is becoming more blurred, especially because there are so many ways for a photographer to utilize digital technology in their work. The entire process can be digital, from shooting with a digital camera to printing from a computer, or only part of the process can utilize the technology, like shooting with film then scanning it into a computer to manipulate and print the shot.

"There's no way to know whether they took it with a digital camera or took it with film and scanned it in," Jones said. "There's so many ways nowadays to get into the digital platform and make digital prints that it's anybody's guess how it started. You can do it with a digital camera or do it with a regular camera — you don't really know anymore."


"empty Bed Blues," by Michael Conti, got honorable mention recognition in the 2004 "Rarified Light." The statewide photography show is on display at the Gary L. Freeburg Art Gallery at Kenai Peninsula College through Jan. 29.

Though the majority of shots are black and white, there are some color pieces in the show, many of which about leap off the walls, surrounded as they are by their more reserved-hued neighbors.

"Red-purple, Red," by Susan Condon, and "Iced Light #19," by Ken Kollodge, for example, utilize washes of especially vibrant reds and purples. "Her Mother's Wedding Dress," by James H. Barber, shows a woman in a white dress lounging in a tree-ringed clearing of lush green grass.

Since "Rarefied Light" isn't a themed show, submissions run the gamut of subject matter. Many this year are scenic shots, like Bob Mintz's eagle-eye image of cloud-encircled peaks in "Alaska Range." Others depict people, like Barrett's black-and-white "Receiving Line," which captures a look of dazed befuddlement on a new groom's face as his bride enthusiastically greets well-wishers.

Some shots are studies in light and composition, like "Sculpture in Lead," by Doug Deiman, a black-and-white of a pile of massive lead weights. Others convey sentiment, like Brian Schneider's "Modern Ruins #1" of a broken-down old vehicle being overgrown by greenery.

Even though "Rarefied Light" leans toward traditional imagery this year, there's still a sampling of the abstract. Barrett's "Station" falls in that category. It is an extreme crop of the Warren Ames Memorial Bridge, but other than the cropping, the shot was manipulated very little, Barrett said.

"Rarefied Light" is on display at the Gary L. Freeburg Art Gallery at KPC until Jan. 29.

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