Andy Bloxham took photos that offer a glimpse of a larger event. The viewer is supposed to build upon the images, creating a longer story.
"Julia, Graduate Student, Art" (from "Her House, Her Clothes")
For her series "Her House, Her Clothes," photographer Morgan Konn got permission to enter women's homes while they were away. Then Konn photographed herself wearing the women's clothes in an attempt to "try on their lives."
"Cream Filled" (from "Utopic")
Jason DeMarte combined images of the natural world with images of commercially produced products. The series, "Utopic," aims to show how artificial interpretations of the natural world compare to the consumer world.
Grace Weston, who lived in Portland before moving to Seattle two years ago, uses miniature characters, constructed sets and vivid colors to create vignettes that mix humor with psychological tension.
"Lost" (from "Dwellings")
Libby Rowe, a co-curator for Spinning Yarns, takes photos that address issues of identity and belonging. Her series "Dwellings" is a look at the dual meanings of the word, meaning both a place where one lives and one's mental state. Rowe photographed dwellings that might cause one to dwell.
Erin V. Sotak
"Call Me For Dinner, Sometime"
Erin Sotak creates performance installations as the models for her photography. The result is a story in two forms: live action and still photo. She uses symbolic colors, iconic objects, cultural references and historical allusions.
"Waterlogged" (from "Subtle Hysteria")
Bess Bieluczyk's "Subtle Hysteria" looks at the imagined life of an unhappy housewife. The character's quiet desperation and frustrations manifest themselves in strange displays in her home.
"Merit and Mark" (from "Clean")
Ashley Feagin's "Clean" represents one character’s obsession with how she's perceived. The photos show the character's neurotic tendencies she developed in the pursuit of the ideal image. A restrained, predominantly white palette lets the viewer question whose portrait is actually being taken, the character or her habits.
Nate Larson and Marni Shindelman
"She Said, He Said" (from "Semaphore")
Nate Larson and Marni Shindelman’s collaborative work focuses on the understanding of distance as perceived in modern life and network culture.
"It was something they came to accept" (from "Interiors")
Christine Shank designed and constructed interior room dioramas that show an aftermath of a destructive event. By taking the photos through doorways, hallways and adjoining rooms, she positions the viewer as an onlooker.
"Javelinas" (from "Fieldtrips Home")
As a child, Alex Emmons frequently moved from city to city. Her series "Fieldtrips Home" is a look at the feeling of transience and the idea of home. She photographed others' homes and manipulated the focal plane and angle to create a quality evocative of visual memory.
Jay Gould's "Experimental Storytelling" is a series of images of a fictional universe, seen from construction to destruction. Each image is set on a consistent stage so as to appear like an experiment.
Unlike other types of photography, such as landscape and portraiture, the point of narrative photography is to tell a story. But Spinning Yarns, a traveling exhibition by curators Anne Leighton Massoni and Libby Rowe, takes this concept a step further, they say. After all, to spin a yarn means to do more than recount events; it means to create a tale.
The photos in the exhibition — 64 works from 23 photographers from around the United States — use metaphor, open-ended narrative and subtle manipulation to inspire stories in the viewers’ imaginations. The photos provide the building blocks, but the narrative remains open to/for interpretation. The exhibition is on display this month at the Newspace Center for Photography in Portland.
“In the world of contemporary photography, we felt like what we had been seeing was focusing on social documentary, travel, location-based imagery,” Rowe says. “As photographers that cultivated a narrative, we thought maybe our time had come and gone, but we found that people still want to be told stories.”
Massoni and Rowe got to know each other at Society for Photographic Education conferences and first showed the exhibition three years ago at the Kendall College of Art and Design in Grand Rapids, Michigan. They then took the show on the road, putting it up at galleries across the country.
Two of the photographers showcased were living in Portland. Grace Weston, who has since moved to Seattle, photographed whimsical dioramas that combine humor and psychological tension. Blue Mitchell, publisher of Diffusion photography magazine, printed his eerie images on sheets of birch to give them a sepia-like tone.
“They come off a little Tim Burton-esque,” Mitchell says. “My prior work is darker, so I was trying to flesh that out and not make it as dark, but more spiritual.”
Portland photographer Blue Mitchell blends reality and fantasy in his photo titled "Reconstructing Nature."
Two of his prints, which are acrylic list, an inkjet transfer process, feature crows. Mitchell says he has “a bit of an obsession” with crows, seeing them as sorts of shamans. Another print, “Reconstructing Nature,” depicts a woman trying to wrap twigs into a ball. That one is is about the human attempt to organize nature.
Other artists’ photos show grizzly bears paired with Twinkies, a woman waving semaphore flags and marbles scattered on a sidewalk. The way the photos are created are varied, too. Some artists take a straightforward approach, taking photos of things in the world, and some artists create the subject of the image from scratch. One of Massoni’s favorites is an image by Erin Sotak titled “Call Me For Dinner, Sometime,” in which a woman is nailing cherries to a table. The photo is actually a snapshot of a live performance that Sotak created and directed.
“These are all really amazing image thinkers,” Rowe says. “This is a whole set of artists who approach visual storytelling from very different perspectives.”