Eye of the beholder

by Keith Barber

Green Hill Center exhibit explores the nature of photography

David Simonton has always thought of photography as an interactive medium where the dialogue between photographer and viewer helps determine the meaning of every photo. Simonton, a Raleigh native, is one of four artists whose work will be on display at the Green Hill Center for North Carolina Art’s Photography Dialogs exhibit, which kicks off this week.

“I learned about photography in three coinciding ways: by photographing, of course; by looking at photographs; and by listening closely to what others said about the medium — about the power of a photograph to make and leave an impression, about the dual (and often dueling) nature of the photograph itself,” Simonton said in a statement. “Is it a work of art? Is it a document?” Simonton is one of three photographers working in photogravure, traditional silver prints and digital composites who will discuss their approaches to the medium during a reception at Green Hill Center on Aug. 18 from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

Photographer David Spear will also be on hand at the Aug. 18 event.

He said advances in digital technology have opened up a whole new world of possibilities to photographers. Spear said he begins with an idea and then makes the image work with the digital tools at his disposal. He described in detail how one of his black-and-white photos went from concept to reality.

“I have made a man alone facing the reality of the madness of our times,” Spear said in a statement. “This photograph is made up of the man, a background of devastation and birds scavenging in the background. I took a simple photograph that had no potential — a photograph of an eagle on a post — and developed it with a sky and a person so that it became somewhat mysterious.”

Spear said the advent of software like Photoshop and composite imaging technology can take a “failing photo” and transform it into something mythical.

Photographer Raymond Grubb will also attend the Aug. 18 reception to discuss how the iconic landscape of Paris inspires his work.

“My work is a catalogue combining documentary work with my personal experiences in an effort to distill a narrative, both personal and historic, from encountered imagery, embracing both the present and the past,” Grubb said in a statement.

All of Grubb’s photos in the exhibit are pulled from copper plates etched through the photogravure process, which represents a fusion of the photographic image with the intaglio print.

On Aug. 11, photographers John Rosenthal and Linda Ford Roberts will be the guests of honor at a reception at Green Hill Center from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Rosenthal will talk about his latest series of photographs of New Orleans taken 18 months after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. Rosenthal is nationally renowned for his photographs of New Orleans. In August 2008, an exhibit of his Lower Ninth Ward photographs, Then, Absence, was displayed at the New Orleans African-American Museum.

Roberts will present her photography series entitled Simple Truths, portraying her family and home. Roberts, a Waxhaw resident, presented her exhibit, Facing South, at Green Hill Center in 2008.

Both Rosenthal and Roberts will discuss the nature of the photographic medium.

The approaches to the art of photography are as varied as the subjects they capture.

Simonton credited Manuel Alvarez Bravo with giving him a practical way of looking at the artistic process.

“When one takes a photograph, one doesn’t think about making a statement, but rather about creating something visual which can later bear a meaning,” Simonton said. “The meaning of the photograph depends upon the viewer’s interpretation, but not necessarily the photographer’s.”

Green Hill Center for North Carolina Art is located at 200 N. Davie Street in downtown Greensboro. For further info, call 336.333.7460.