Prints of most of these images are available for purchase. Please inquire.All photographs are the copyright of the individual artists and may not be reproduced without their permission.
'What gives life to a photograph?” is a question I have long considered. Take the selection of images before you. They have been chosen from more than 2,200 entries for the juried exhibit 'Composed'. But what distinguishes the few selected images from the others? What gives them life?
One, they are built on a sound foundation of craft. The photographers have met a credible standard for camera work and image presentation. Poor technique hasn't condemned their work.
Two, vision. Each selected image demonstrates an interesting, sometimes original, way of seeing. This, of course, is crucial.
Three, qualities of composition. All photographers pursue subjects; the best simultaneously pursue settings in which to situate their subjects. In the selected images there is a meaningful marriage between subject and setting that isn't accidental.
Linking craft and vision to the critical skill of pictorial composition creates photographs with the potential to come alive in the mind of the viewer.
But that potential goes unrealized without a spark to ignite the image. Photographers seek that ineffable spark in life's fleeting moments. These are the moments familiar to all of us--a graceful gesture, the telling expression, a change of light, the momentary rearrangement of things in the busy world. Or all of these at once. Clarifying this visual chaos is the challenging work of photography. But when done well the results seem inevitable.
Successful photographs, like these, are complete within themselves. That's what made them selections for this exhibit. They are also suggestive and cannot be easily memorized. That's what gives them life.
- Sam Abell
Sam Abell is a teacher, artist and photographer who learned photography from his father, also a teacher, at their home in Sylvania, Ohio. After graduating from the University of Kentucky, Sam worked for National Geographic as a contract and staff photographer for 33 years. In 1990, his work was the subject of a one-person exhibition and monograph titled Stay This Moment at the International Center of Photography in New York City, New York. Since then he has published 3 collections of his work: Seeing Gardens; Sam Abell: The Photographic Life; and The Life of a Photograph. In addition, Sam maintains an international career as a writer, teacher and lecturer on photography. Read more about Sam Abell at: http://samabell.com/.
This very special exhibition is co-hosted by PhotoPlace Gallery and Texas Photographic Society, and will be hung at PhotoPlace Gallery. We are honored that Sam Abell — renowned photographer, teacher, author and artist based in Charlottesville, Virginia — will jury the exhibition. Read his call for submissions:
“Compose the picture, Sammy. And wait.”
Those are the most influential words ever spoken to me about photography. I heard them when I was 14. They were spoken by my father on one of our photo outings together.
But what did he mean? He meant for me to establish the basic composition before clicking the shutter. To him that meant I should look for strong structure, good light and the potential for life-giving action. Only when all of the elements of a composition were in place would I be ready to…wait.
Wait for what? That afternoon I waited for the steaming train to depart the station as my dad buttoned his overcoat against the cold. I entered a print of the scene in the 1960 National High School Photo Contest. It won the smallest prize—Honorable Mention, Junior Division. But that small prize changed my life. It put me on a path that led to a thirty-year career photographing for National Geographic.
During those decades I rigorously practiced the ‘compose and wait’ approach to making photographs. I had to; there was no other way to make successful images.
As juror for this exhibit, what am I looking for in an image? In a word: everything. I want to see well designed photographs that have depth, strong structure, good light—and within them a spark of life.
What don’t I want to see? Images that are contrived, forced, synthetic or derivative. Images where software or hardware have made the picture.
Fine photographs—the kind you want to live with—seem inevitable. There may be disciplined work behind them (strong seeing, patience) but that effort is invisible.
The aspiration of this exhibit is high: To place on the walls of the gallery a collection of images that cannot be easily memorized. A set of photographs so strong and subtle in their compositions that they irresistibly stay in the mind of the viewer.
I invite you to make such photographs and to submit them for consideration in the upcoming exhibit with the compelling title ‘Composed’.
– Sam Abell
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