Vincent Matthew Franco
Pictures of Joshua Tree landscapes, natural births and a makeup tutorial video on how to disrupt facial recognition cameras were among the images filling the narrow hallway that is the Irene Carlson Gallery, on view until Oct. 14.
The exhibition, “Depth of Field,” is a biannual photography and multimedia art show consisting of five adjunct faculty members from the University of La Verne’s photography department.
An artist walk-through with four of the five artists was held on Sept. 29 at the gallery located on the garden floor of Miller Hall at ULV.
Around 10 La Verne community members showed up to take in all the different ways these faculty members expressed themselves via the camera lens.
First up to talk was Fred Brashear, an adjunct professor of photography, whose photographs revolved around climate change and its visible effects on planet Earth.
Brashear’s work on display is of Joshua trees in California deserts and in other states as well. The shots were entirely in black-and-white 35 mm film, a process he said allows him to be more intimate with his photographs.
In comparison to digital photography where all that needs to be done is place the settings and take the picture, with 35 mm film from putting in the film to the development of the pictures you are involved every step of the way, Brashear said.
“I have to take my time and actually be present in that landscape, it’s not just like going out there with a digital camera and take a photo and then move on to the next one,” Brashear said. “I’m actually sitting there pondering that landscape.”
The inspiration came to Brashear when he learned that in the next decade, this staple of a plant could become extinct. This compelled him to travel through Utah, Nevada and Arizona with hopes of documenting the plants’ last few years on earth.
The photograph that most genuinely captured this concept was titled “On the Edge,” and it showed a Joshua tree’s exposed roots barely hanging on as it sat on a crumbling ledge.
Next to Brashear’s photographs were Adjunct Professor of Art and Art History and Photography Elizabeth Hibbard’s photos. They focused on challenging the idea of a camera being a tool used to show pure truth.
“Some of it has to do with my interest in the history of spiritualism and spirit photography, in terms of how photography can be used as an instrument of what might be interpreted as trickery,” Hibbard said.
Spiritualism began in the 19th Century and is the idea of being able to contact the spirit world through the new technologies coming out in that time period, Hibbard explained.
All the photographs she displayed, such as “World Without Genesis,” were somewhat eerie. This picture was taken facing upwards towards a skylight window of an upstairs attic, and the only light coming in was of a bright full moon entirely obscured by clouds. One can almost hear the howling of a werewolf while looking at it.
Also on display is work by Rory Hamovit, adjunct professor of art and art history and photography. Hamovit had the most interesting way of printing his photos because he shot and edited them digitally but printed them in a dark room as is done traditionally for 35 mm film.
“I have both control over them digitally, and analog, printing-wise, so I want to double control,” Hamovit said. “I wanted everything within my reach.”
Hamovit explained that he does this to see the contrast between his interaction with his subject matter versus how the audience will react and interact with the photograph.
Besides this unusual way of developing photo prints, one photograph that intrigued the gallery goers was “Interior Shot.” This was taken from the perspective of being inside of a mouth, and on the outside was a person screaming – or maybe laughing.
When asked what it was about, a voice from the back of the viewing group blurted out: “You are being consumed by it!” This seemed the most accurate way of explaining the photograph.
The last speaker of the afternoon was Christy Roberts Berkowitz, also adjunct professor of art and art history and photography. Berkowitz was the only artist displaying video rather than photography.
There were three series of videos, all focused on some kind of social justice message.
The one that stuck out the most was a makeup tutorial video showing how makeup can avoid being caught by facial recognition cameras.
The irony, Berkowitz told viewers, is that her mother was a police officer and helped in the creation of facial recognition technology.
The object of her three videos was to bring up socio-political problems in a satirical way, which is funny and artistic but at the same time shines a light on those issues.
“Art has been able to provide a (forum) for protest in countries and in spaces where other mainstream types of protest would not (be acceptable),” Shannon Mathews, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at ULV, said. “Artists have always been central to revolution.”
Vincent Matthew Franco can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.