“The Photographic Society of Philadelphia* is the oldest active photography society in the country. We have been looking at the world through the camera lens since 1860!
Photography has dramatically evolved since 1860. Back then the techniques of photography were limited to a few. Photographers developed their own processes, grounded their own lenses, made their own cameras and tripods. “Instant” could be many minutes, images were captured on glass plates and slowly teased into visibility, and the lightest camera still weighed many pounds. But such was the “cutting-edge technology” of the time.
The evolution of photographic technology and techniques over the last century and a half has been daunting. Never more so than today, where film technology and digital technology both draw the photographer’s attention. Today, lenses and cameras are designed by computer, “instant” is a tiny fraction of a second, “film” may be a digital camera’s memory card, and even the traditional darkroom may now be complemented by a cleverly used computer and digital printer.” – Photographic Society of Philadelphiaweb page
Galleria Deptford is located in the Deptford Municipal Building at 1011 Cooper Street, Deptford, NJ. The on-going art installations are curated by Pauline Jonas, an arts maven who connects artists with opportunities. The current photography exhibition is by members of the Photographic Society of Philadelphia. Galleria Deptford doesn’t collect commissions, all artwork is insured, allowing artists to show their work in a heavily trafficked venue with all sales going directly through the artist. The current exhibit pays homage to the the Photographic Society of Philadelphia with more than twenty photographers sharing over sixty photographs. The exhibit was organized and curated by Photographic Society of Philadelphia member Jeff Stroud, but the Galleria Deptford staff does the heavy lifting and installs the show. All that the artists had to do was get their work to the venue and the good people at Galleria Deptford do the rest including providing the Artist Reception to be held Sunday, March 16th, 2:00 to 4:00 pm with light refreshments (no alcohol – it’s a municipal building).
Jeff and I toured the exhibition and asked the staff about how the public reacts to the art. For the most part, the photography and other art shows are enthusiastically embraced by the citizens of Deptford Township as the come to get permits, pay taxes or go to court. The folks we talked to said many people linger over the works and will often ask how to purchase work. The art adds local color and culture to the municipal building creating a lively and vibrant atmosphere. Along with the art exhibits, Galleria Deptford holds art workshops, lectures and movie nights. The only problem they face is when artists want to exhibit artwork with nude figures. In the current show there a couple of photos with nude figures which are actually shots of cemetery statues by Ed Snyder. The ‘nudes’ were outside of the tax office and the gripes stopped after the work was moved. I talked with Jeff Stroud about how this great opportunity came to fruition:
Jeff, how do you know Pauline Jonas?
“I know Pauline through doing the exhibition with the Salem County Arts League, that was my first time exhibiting here. And then she personally invited me back to show again with a group show. She is such an energetic and passionate person with what she does. When the opportunity to extend and celebrate the history of Photographic Society of Philadelphia was there, I asked her if we could have an exhibit there and she said, ‘Absolutely!’ We thought it would be in 2013 but this was the first opportunity to exhibit here. There will be another exhibit held at The Plastic Club in October celebrating 152 years.”
“This exhibition was open to all members of the society and Eileen Eckstein sent out an e-mail to all the members. We talked about it for the last year and a half to help get people up to speed. I started getting responses within hours of the invitation going out. A few of the people are new members that I’ve never met before. When I didn’t hear from some members I started inviting people that I know personally whose work I knew would add to the collection. We have twenty-one photographers showing and sixty-five pieces. In all genres from film and photo-montage and digital camera work.
I was impressed by the variety of techniques shown, as well. Photography now isn’t just film. Gene Renzi put in silver gelatin prints, Ned Barlas did the big panorama on canvas, Bill Myers out in his surreal photo collages, Rob Lybeck‘s abstract landscapes and David Swift‘s lovely compositions. I was impressed by the people who work here at the municipal building, too, and how they’re impacted by having art around them all the time. I asked Jeff what he thought?
“Absolutely! And I think that was one of the whole idea of the continuation of the art there. Because it’s in the municipal building, it’s really boring with brick walls, but it adds a flavor to the space. I was just thinking about the space; it adds a sense of femininity to a very masculine business structure. Art brings a softness and a changing experience for the people that go there on a regular basis to pat their taxes or get permits or get arrested or go to court. LOL! And it makes them feel better when they see some art. It’s kind of interesting.”
I asked Jeff how he arranged to get the story in the Philadelphia Inquirer.
“I’m a friend of Kevin Riordan, Inquirer Columnist, I asked if he was interested in the story. He was more interested in the story of the municipality of Deptford having the gallery space than the society having the anniversary. So the story kind of worked that way but I’m grateful for all the publicity we got for the club as well as the gallery. As I said, Pauline Jonas does a wonderful job, wonderful work. She get’s these people together and they have their own art collection. People contribute to the township and to the gallery. They’ll probably need a new building just to keep their own art.”
Throughout the offices and hallways of the municipal building are works of fine art owned by Deptford Township, one of the few municipalities in New Jersey to do so. Read Kevin Riordan‘s article in the Philadelphia Inquirer here.
“It’s a great opportunity, and I humbly say this, I didn’t think how this was my first curatorial position to do something like this. Not that it was difficult, there was no real choosing, there’s no competition, it was just making it happen.Putting it together, contacting people, being in contact with people I didn’t know I was supposed to be in contact with, just putting it out there, Again, it’s the interaction with the people at Deptford and the gallery, so it’s a new connection for me. And to see art from a different perspective, I have had the opportunity to see it all more than once, I’ve seen it a dozen times. I put it up on the wall and I take it down off the wall, I’ve opened it up. It’s an opportunity to meet people and I think that’s the whole idea of the Photographic Society of Philadelphia as well, to meet photographers of all genres and to see where they’re coming from and to be inspired. To me, that’s what art is all about.”
“Apparently we’ve had a good reception from people that have come through the building. The mayor was there when we were interviewing with the newspaper, so, we got to meet him and talk to him. He really likes the photography. He said he can’t draw but he does take pictures.”
That’s a good point. Is photography more accessible to viewers that drawings or paintings?
“I think there is a sense of reality to photography, the sense of that moment, that is captured. Even though a painting is about a moment, it’s usually more pastural, bucolic, etc. rather than the immediacy of a photo. And many people take photographs of the region, so, there is a lot of things that they recognize. Even though my three pieces are the back end of the woods at my house nobody would know that because they’ve never seen it like that. That’s where I get my photographs, in Magnolia’s little woods.”
A municipal employee asked me where my photograph was taken, I told her in an alley in Philadelphia and she said, ‘Oh. Of course.’
How did you get people to contribute the great vintage camera display?
“Photographer, David Swift has a large collection and Kyle Payne has a good collection and he brought the majority of the collection but David brought a lot, too. I have a couple cameras and you brought one. I’m not really an equipment collector. The history there is amazing, being part of the Photographic Society is being part of the history of photography. Over 150 years of continuous meetings of people, photographers getting together showing their art, talking about equipment and the technology that changes through the centuries. When these guys first started out, they were inventors, they wanted to know how this stuff worked, so they took it apart and tried to figure it out, they created their own cameras, so, there is a lot of history there. My idea was to extend the history and make history.”
Deptford Township is nationally historic as the first site in America for flying a hot air balloon. The gallery has several paintings in it’s collection representing the fantastical event. In the display case are books including early air shots from hot air balloons.
Personally, I would like to express my sincere gratitude to Jeff Stroud and Pauline Jonas for making this opportunity to exhibit my art at Galleria Deptford possible. I grew up in Oak Valley, a post Korean War suburban housing development in Deptford Township, and I attended Deptford High School. I wasn’t a great student but when I graduated in 1971 I was honored to be awarded ‘The Most Artistic’ student that year and received a savings bond. To say I am proud to show my art in my home town is an understatement, I am flooded with emotions and memories when I drive down Cooper Street or cross over Fox Run Road. I am still friends with my High School art teacher, Ross Beitzel, and I know that he is proud of how I have found my place in the art world. So, if you think crossing the bridge from Philly to South Jersey is a trip too far, think again. There are wonderful people and personalities, great art and history, urban development and green spaces to create wonderful lasting friendships and memories to last a lifetime.
Artist Reception: Sunday, March 16th, 2:00 to 4:00 pm, Galleria Deptford, 1011 Cooper Street, Deptford NJ, 08096. The exhibition is on display until April 2nd during regular business hours.
John A. Benigno
Melvin A Chappell
Susan E. Ellis
Sarah Watkins Nathan
Follow Mujetdebois on Flickr
Follow Mujetdebois on Tumblr
Read Kevin Riordan‘s article in the Philadelphia Inquirer here.
Read more about Galleria Deptford on DoNArTNeWs here
Read more about the annual photography exhibition at Galleria Deptford on DoNArTNeWs here
Like Photographic Society of Philadelphia on facebook
Follow the original DoNArTNeWs Philadelphia Art News Blog at www.brewermultimedia.com
Like DoNArTNeWs Philadelphia Art News Blog on facebook
Follow DoN on Twitter @DoNNieBeat58
DoNArTNeWS on Tumblr
@donniebeat on Instagram