Times are changing fast in photography


FOA special exhibit provides education along with art

Technological changes in recent years have affected photography perhaps more than any other art form.

Just ask Dan Burkholder, curator of Photography: Pinhole to iPhone, the special exhibit of the 2012 Lake Oswego Festival of the Arts last weekend.

"Photography today is easier than ever," said Burkholder, who came all the way from the Hudson Valley in New York to be the featured artist for the FOA.

"But the bar has been raised for photographers wanting to stand out. We have to find our vision by using a combination of classical and digital techniques. We are getting images we could not have had two years ago.

"If you don't like an art that is changing a lot, don't pick photography. Pick pottery instead."

With the FOA patrons, Burkholder was right on target. As he completed one of his slideshows, he asked, "Is this fun?"

"It's great fun!" responded a viewer.

For Ray Bidegan, a FOA committee member and long-time professional photographer in Portland, Burkholder's show was just what the exhibit needed.

"We wanted to show the diversity of the photographic process without making it like a historic presentation," Bidegan said. "Photography is not what it used to be. Photographers need education about applying the new processes."

The exhibit itself was a combination of intensely artistic work and photos that were immediately accessible. Some of the photos had patrons walking up close and asking, "How do they do it?" and exclaiming "Oh my gosh! and "This is great!"

There was the stark and shattering work of Aspen Hochhalter with her portraits of faces, the painstaking artistry of Smith Eliot in "Dream Whisperers" and also the instant charm of Paige Stoyer showing three friends hugging and joking in an outdoor cafe and the hilarity of small children entering a living room. A great photographer can make an old tree stump look immensely interesting.

More entertainment was offered by the Cascade Stereoscopic Club's exhibit of 3D photography. No one could resist looking into the Rotary Slide Viewer to see dazzling photos of lighted cities and crocodiles on rocks stretched out as far as the eye can see.

A great photo is a great photo, but the emphasis in Lake Oswego last weekend was on the cutting edge in photography. The new photography may not be for everybody, but it has great rewards for those willing to take the plunge. Burkholder compares the new photographic era to a thrill ride at an amusement park.

"You may see a ride and say, ‘That's not for me,'" Burkholder said. "But other people are going to get on the ride, hold on and enjoy it. That is the best choice you can make."