by Rebecca Cooper
Arts & Entertainment Editor
Almost 60 years after his father offered Gerry Pence his first camera, Pence is inspiring the University of La Verne community with his photography in the exhibit “Seeing Again.”
The exhibit includes a variety of photographs, including landscape photos from Germany in the 1950s, buildings in the desert ghost town of Bodie in the 1980s, photographs of children and family in La Verne in the 1990s and pictures of various flowers from 2000.
The photograph “Dentures Anyone?” stands out because of the unusual content. The photograph, which is in Randsburg, is of an old wood window with children’s toys lining the shelf and a hanging sign, which says, “Yes we have used dentures.”
The picture next to “Dentures Anyone?” is titled “Trust Elway” and is a direct contrast to the old feeling in Randsburg. Pence photographed “Trust Elway” at an abandoned service station in Blythe.
Someone spray painted “Trust Jesus,” which was crossed out and replaced by multiple sports heroes names. When Pence was in Blythe in 1999, someone spray painted “Trust Elway.” Today, Elway’s name is probably crossed out and replaced with “Trust Jackson,” for Dexter Jackson, the last Super Bowl MVP.
Another photo that stands out is “Market Place,” which Pence photographed in Kassel, Germany in 1951. The market place is where shoppers can buy everything from clothes to fresh fruits and vegetables to little handmade wooden trinkets.
“At first glance, my eyes were distracted by the patterns and prints of the bustling street scene,” said Jessica Lord, a senior art major.
“But when I looked closer, I began to see the tension between the women. The people and the intensity between them (are) really more dominant than the visual landscape. (Pence) really shot a compelling photo.”
The photograph “Bristlecone Snag” provides viewers with a typical view of the native California desert. Pence shot this picture in California’s White Mountains in 1979. It is a large desert shrub that is thriving in the middle of sand and rocks, with no water in sight. It makes viewers wonder how the bush has grown so large.
Another style of photography exhibited in “Seeing Again” is one titled “Man on a Path.” Pence took this when he was in Grindelwald, Switzerland in 1952.
The photograph is of a small Swiss Mountain town that is desolate, except one man on a tree-lined mud path. You begin to wonder where the lone man is headed on this dark and gloomy day following the mass destruction of World War II.
Pence was chosen to be featured in the exhibit by Gary Colby, professor of photography. ULV produces the show and provides the facility, but does not pay photography staff or the artist extra money for their work on the show.
“The purpose of the show is to feature emerging artists who work avocationally, not established photographers,” Colby said. “I choose people like Pence who are lively and really like what they are doing and sharing their photographs with others.”
When Gerry Pence graduated high school in Oregon in 1945, his father offered to buy him a camera as a graduation gift, but Pence did not think it was a practical gift and asked for a wristwatch instead.
After high school he attended La Verne College, married his wife Bernice, and the couple went to Germany for two years after World War II with the Brethren Service Commission.
Their trip to Germany was to lead 30 American youth to help reconstruct the buildings that were destroyed during the war. They also worked with Heifer Project to provide animals and food to the people of Germany.
While in Germany, Pence bought two used cameras and began the exciting hobby of photography.
The Pences then returned to the United States and pursued further education in music at Fresno State, Pomona College and University of California, Los Angeles.
Pence then attended graduate school at the University of Southern California, later teaching choral music and English at Bonita High School until he retired in 1987.
“When we started our family I really brought out the camera and took pictures and realized why my dad wanted to buy me that camera” Pence said. “But after, I retired, I felt that I needed formal training in the craft.”
Pence took pictures along the journey of life, and after retiring, decided it was time to take formal classes in photography. He enrolled at Tri-Community School of Photography in Covina and took classes in color and black and white photography for three years.
“I just like to get my hands dirty and watch the image come up when I develop my pictures,” Pence said. “Photography takes you outdoors and really reveals things about people.”
When each of Pence’s grandchildren graduate from high school, he lets them chose a framed photograph as their graduation gift.
“It’s a great, personal gift that I can give them, and it is something they will always have,” Pence said.
The 30 black and white photographs of the “Seeing Again” exhibit will be on display in the Irene Carlson Gallery of Photography on the bottom floor of Miller Hall until April 4.