You can almost hear the “Mission Impossible” theme song in the background when you learn about the assignment proposed to 24 Utah photographers: Your mission, should you choose to accept it . . .
The letter from Alpine Art curator Matt Chiodo went to the 24 artists in mid-December, barely three weeks before the “mission.” Each photographer was invited to pick one of the first 24 hours in 2012 and chronicle that hour (local time, wherever they might be), using only available light, and submit only one photograph for exhibition. Additional parameters regarding the size of the photograph and framing were designed to ensure a cohesive exhibit. Alpine Art will show the resulting 24 photographs from February 17 to March 31, in an exhibit it calls 24 x 24.
The hours, from 12 a.m. to midnight on January 1, 2012, were assigned on a first-come, first-served basis.
Partying, or hung over (or not), someone had to take that first hour of 2012. Kelly Green picked it. She knew she’d be in Portland, at a club where her boyfriend would be playing bass in a band. “I went to the club earlier that day to check out the space and the lighting,” she says. Spying a balcony above and to the side of the stage area, she decided to begin photographing there, hoping to capture the band, the crowd, and a burst of exuberant celebration as the clock turned to 2012. She even handed out the New Year party “crackers” to the crowd. With camera anchored to her tripod and a railing, she was ready to shoot. “I was hoping there would be more of a New Year celebration happening, but there wasn’t,” says Green. The stuff spewing from the crackers just didn’t show well in the available light. But, Green says, “It was fun to play around with the colors, lights, and long exposures.”
Anne Cummings-Anderson responded late to Chiodo’s invitation. With few hours to choose from, she selected 11 p.m. “It was a little challenging and I didn’t have a lot of time to pre-visualize,” she says. “But I had been thinking for a while about hopes for the New Year, from a political point of view. So I took that as my concept and played with it.” She sketched out the composition she had in mind and scouted the location for the shoot. Even with all that preparation, there are usually unexpected challenges. Life isn’t perfect. But that was fine with Cummings-Anderson, who enjoys working with imperfection and not spending too much time over-shooting to perfect an image. After all, she says, “The message within my picture is about imperfection and the world we live in today.”
Gerry Johnson was packing for a holiday trip to Hawaii when he received his invitation to participate. He selected the hour between 6 and 7 a.m. The friend he was staying with on the Big Island is a former photojournalist who was excited to suggest places for the shoot and go along for the fun of it. They planned to travel to the island’s volcano park, but the weather turned rainy, so they went to the black sand beach instead. “It was absolutely fantastic,” says Johnson. “I love being up early in the morning. I thought it was a cool way to do things and to welcome the New Year.”
While New Year’s day was winding down most people where probably heading to bed. But Shalee Cooper had a 9 p.m. photo shoot for the Alpine show. Cooper likes to document things; not just things, but color. “I decided to shoot in my living room with the play of light on the walls,” says Cooper. Her abstract color field photographs are well known; will this follow that concept? You’ll have to see the show to find out.
Michael Slade picked the evening hour from 6 to 7; not his first choice, but close. “It’s neat to see what you come up with when you’re not in control,” he says. He shot his photograph on the Great Salt Lake as part of his multi-year documentation of the lake at various times of the year. “I wanted to do something different,” says Slade. So he worked with a new direct-positive paper made in England. It’s a bit like a Polaroid in that the image is captured on the paper in his 8 x 10 inch view camera. But the image is then developed back in the studio. Since the assignment was to produce a 16 x 20, or 16 x 16, image, Slade shot a sequence of four 8 x 10s to assemble into the required size. “This is a little different from most photographs,” he says. “There’s no negative so this image cannot be reproduced.” It’s one of a kind.
Cat Palmer, mother of two young children, one teething, is often up in the middle of the night, so why not take the 4 a.m. assignment, she thought. Her strategy was to explore her world, inside her toy-strewn house, to find her best option. What caught her sleep filled eyes after the alarm went off at 4:00 on New Year’s morning was the jack-in-the-box her little boy got for his birthday. Palmer is excited to be among the participating artists, even though conforming to the framing guidelines for the show is contrary to her well-known style of mounting photographs on metal and incorporating mixed media in the presentation.
In his invitation to the artists Chiodo said the concept behind this group show is to emphasize the variety in talent and styles among the artists and to highlight each artist with one focus. As the images came in, the concept was borne out in the variety of processes and subject matter as well as styles.
This is Chiodo’s first curatorial project at Alpine. He says, “We’d like to move the gallery in a direction of having artists create art for the gallery instead of bringing in things they’ve shown other places. This will keep the gallery more relevant in the future.”
For one-of-a-kind, one-for-each-hour interpretations of January 1, 2012, don’t miss this show.
Sue Martin holds an M.A. in Theatre and has worked in public relations. As an artist, she works in watercolor, oil, and acrylic to capture Utah landscapes or the beauty of everyday objects in still life.