Classic Photography Gallery Opens at Fábrica Aurora

By Peter Leventhal

The dynamic between the realistic and the expressive is essential in photography, for photos are evidence. Their lack of guile gives to the photographic image the sense of depicting a real moment in time. The photograph certifies the occasion it represents, capturing what esteemed photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson called “The Decisive Moment.”

Art Opening
“Mexico Retrospective 1994-2014”
Sat, Jan 31, 5-8pm
Shapiro Galerie Fábrica
Fábrica La Aurora

Photography as a recognized art received its most significant impetus from the 1905 opening of Alfred Stieglitz’s gallery 291 and its publication Camera Work. Stieglitz insisted that the first condition for photographic images be in the quality of the printing of the image; the extensive tonal conditions and subtle values demanded a high quality of craftsmanship.

The term “classic” in regard to photography was first applied to the black and white photographs of Stieglitz, Clarence White, and other photographers of the late 1800s and the years before WWI. Later classic photographs include images taken by such renowned artists as Walker Evans, Dorothea Lange, and Gordon Parks, who in their time were capturing images of then-contemporary life during the Depression, the WPA programs of Roosevelt’s New Deal, WWII, and beyond. The history of photography is the history of an ever-changing technology. From images produced with the volatile materials of the 1800s to the present era of digital photography, the term classic may be best defined as “a simple elegant style not subject to changes in fashion.”

Stieglitz wrote that there are many different schools of art in painting, so why should there not be the same in photography? There is hardly any right or wrong in these subjective matters, yet to my mind there are ethical and aesthetic truths that form the basis of all art; values that may be especially seen and experienced in classic photography.

Now in San Miguel we have a new gallery devoted to classic photography: Shapiro Gallery. In the inaugural exhibit “Mexico Retrospective 1994-2014,” a quiet sensibility pervades these beautiful black and white images by photographer Barry Shapiro. This is work that appears to allow the image to come to the artist, to reveal its inherent truth. Faithful to the definition of classic photography and Shapiro’s own view of the world, these photographs transcend time. It is the empathic engagement with the subject that engages the viewer.

Photography has been called the art of “fixing shadows.” When I stop to dwell on that, it occurs to me that a mystery takes place in each and every image in this exhibit. A photographer who treats his work with artistry and skill leaves us with a sense that we have discovered an unrealized truth. So it is on viewing Barry Shapiro’s beautifully crafted prints.


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