A simple, grainy black and white photograph stands before you. A young girl stares up at her much taller viewer. Her wide-eyed stare is unaffected by, you, the looming figure before her. The strength of her stance is magnified by the
close-cropped framing of the image of a dark, pyramid-like subject against a pale, receding background. She stands strong in her own existence and her gaze pulls you in. And you begin to see the world from her eyes.
This is just one example of the many images on display in "Myself, My Camera, My World: the 2005 Ennis Beley Photography Show," on view at the Marguerite & James Hutchins Gallery, Gruss Center of Visual Arts at the Lawrenceville School
through Saturday, December 10. The Ennis Beley Project is an intensive, four-week summer photography program for homeless and in-transition children. A collaboration between Young Audiences of New Jersey, based in Princeton, and HomeFront of Trenton, the program is named after, and run in memorium of, Ennis Beley, a promising young photographer who died at the age of 15 in a gang-related shooting in south central Los Angeles.
For the past seven years, Young Audiences of New Jersey and HomeFront have been placing cameras and film in the hands of children who would otherwise not have the opportunity, in the hope of inspiring the children to take a different look
at their lives and surroundings, and teach them an art form - a different way of seeing and interacting with their world. Many of the young participants have never even held a camera before, but at the end of each session, the experiences, skills, and knowledge that they have gained are celebrated and acknowledged in a group photography exhibit, open to the public.
The Lawrenceville School supplies not only the gallery for the final exhibit, but also darkroom facilities and resources throughout the program. Bill Vandever, an adjunct teacher at Lawrenceville and a professional photographer, has served as instuctor and mentor for the project for the past six years. Under his guidance the children in the program are each given a camera and 10 rolls of film, encouraged to develop their own personal vision and style by taking pictures, processing and printing their own film, critiquing each other's work, and keeping journals of the entire process.
Vandever was born in Salem, New Jersey, but moved frequently as a child, due to his father's occupation as a chemical engineer with Dupont. He earned a bachelors in history and science, from Waynesburg College in Waynesburg, Pennsylvania, in 1971. Though he minored in black and white film in college, it was not until a fateful trip to a photography store in July of 1974 that Vandever purchased his first still camera - on a whim. The camera was pointed in the direction of a shelf of photography books, and Vandever was immediately struck by images of Ansel Adams. "I didn't know still pictures could do that," he remembers thinking to himself as a surprised film student. Since 1978 Vandever's work has centered on photographing architecture, landscapes, and still-lifes.
He says his greatest joy as a teacher of the Ennis Beley project is to see the children get as excited as he did the first time he developed his own photograph. "It is always exciting to see an image appear out of nowhere, on a piece of paper, in a solution - the experience is magical."
He finds it inspirational to pass on his passion for photography in his students, and says some of his students will choose to spend time in the darkroom developing film over their scheduled recesses. Several of his students have repeated the course over multiple summers. This past summer, a previous student, Octavia Hardick, who started the program at age 10 and who Vandever says showed particular enthusiasm and talent, is now 14 and was hired as an assistant for the program.
During the course the children are given weekly one-on-one critiques to help them develop "a good eye," and they learn to think about composition and framing when taking pictures and master the technical tasks involved in developing a good print. "It's not all fun and games," says Vandever. "Like school it teaches responsibilities."
The proof is in the pictures. Though only a four-week course, it is remarkable to see what these children are able to produce. Shot in both color and black and white film (only the black and white photos are developed by the students in the darkroom), the photographs reveal a mature involvement with the entire process. Though the subject matter may range from snapshots of friends and family to simple landscapes, the young photographers clearly demonstrate excellent composition, contrast, and framing.
For example, Jaquan Bland's black and white photograph of a pond with ducks is a simple yet elegant composition with rich tones above the surface of the water that continue in the slightly rippled, mirror effect of the pond. Another
assistant of the program, Bari Laskow, describes Jaquan as "vibrant with a lot of personality, but very casual when he approaches his subjects."
Another of Jaquan's photographs, a seemingly double-exposed image of a central figure in movement (though the cameras, provided by Fuji this year, are fully automatic) connotes a more piercing, skeletal vision of the subject and
surroundings. This striking photograph was taken on one of the days when the program had invited visiting artists. This particular time it was a slam poetry session. Vandever says these weekly visits by a variety artists expose the children to even more forms of art.
Gigi Scott, one of the students to hold a camera for the first time, produced beautiful portraits and still-lifes of flowers. One of the most striking is a color photograph of slightly blurred yellow flowers with slim green stalks against a dark, possibly wet, background. The composition is simple yet compelling; the flowers are almost symmetrical on a horizontal axis in the picture plane, but the bisecting stalks defy this possibility. The overall blurred presentation gives the photograph a very painterly, almost impressionistic flair.
Larry Capo, executive director of Young Audiences of New Jersey, says that Gigi and several program "graduates" recently came by the offices for a visit - and arrived with cameras strung around their necks. When asked if the cameras had
film in them, they answered with multiple "no's." Yet Capo says that when students return from previous sessions, they often bring rolls of film ready to be developed on the first day of class.
The photograph mentioned in the opening paragraph was produced by Winston McRae, who held a camera for the first time in the program this year. In the exhibit, his portrait, photographed by instructor Bill Vandever, is surrounded by stunning portraits, photographed by Winston, all of which are compelling. He epitomizes the goal of this program, which provides not only the opportunity but teaches the ability and skills necessary to transform, by framing and
presentation, what is present in an otherwise everyday existence into a work of art that has a deeper meaning and resonance.
Another of Winston's photographs captures a child in a laundromat; the child's face and folded arms, which occupy one eighth of the picture plane at most, are the focal point, magnified by a balance of light/dark contrast and secondary
lines created by the laundry folds, plumbing pipes, and appliances included in the picture. All of these lines point inward to the child's eyes staring at the viewer, but the expression of the child's eyes and posture within the picture
plane make you as much subject as viewer.
Participants of the program this year include Robert Wiggs, Tyrik Johnson (whose mother is a former client of HomeFront and has worked there for many years now), Janiecia Liggins, Winston McRae, Giselle (Gigi) Scott, Essence Scott, Esmer Scott, and Jaquan Bland, and range in age from 11 to 14.
Liz Winter, director of residencies at Young Audiences, whose job includes supervising the Ennis Beley Project, says most of the kids have some point have either been homeless or "close to homeless, for example, they know they're going to get evicted or they got temporary housing through HomeFront." All are from Mercer County, many from Trenton, and a few from Hamilton. Some live at the Red Roof Inn on Route 1, some live in apartments in Trenton, others at HomeFront's Family Preserveration Center in West Trenton on the grounds of the Katzenbach School for the Deaf. Winter, who worked at HomeFront for three years as a programs manager overseeing tutoring and art programs, says the center serves as a temporary housing alternative to living in the motels. All of the kids attend public school and are bused to school.
While still working at HomeFront, Winter became acquainted with Young Audiences through the Ennis Beley project and subsequently joined Young Audiences. "I was the 'camp counselor' for the kids and helped in the darkroom. Just watching them
learn this art and being able to express themselves through this art is very interesting. The kids really pride themselves in their work. Winston McRae, for example, is your typical 13-year-old boy, holds everything in. And he took the most amazing portraits that had so much emotional content, when you looked at them you just feel what the people are feeling. He realized he had this talent and a way to express himself through photography. The program gives them an outlet for their creativity and their emotions. I love working with the kids, some of whom have been coming back for years. It's a very positive experience."
Says Vandever: "I teach the kids as much as I can about photography but more than recording the environment in which they live, we're also opening their eyes to the larger world around them. Working with these children, I see them grow in so many ways. They become more mature and responsible, take life more seriously and apply themselves more assiduously. Their excitement and enthusiasm are my greatest reward."
Myself, My Camera, My World," on view through Wednesday, December 14, the Marguerite and James Hutchins Gallery, Gruss Center of Visual Arts, the Lawrenceville School, Lawrenceville. The gallery is open to the public Monday through Saturday mornings, 9 a.m. to noon; afternoon hours on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday, from 1 to 4:30 p.m. Closed for Thanksgiving November 19 to 27. 609-620-6026.
Also on view at the Gruss Center: "Dan Eldon: Images of War Celebrations of Peace." On view through December 14. "Student Work from the Collection of Arthur Wesley Dow." On view through December 14.
Arts Council of Princeton, Contemporary Gallery, Princeton Shopping Center, 609-924-8777. www.artscouncilofprinceton.org. First exhibition in the new temporary space, "artTools," an exhibition of sculptural objects constructed by area artist Charles Ilich.
Caps Gallery, 15 Delaware Avenue, Yardley, PA, 215-369-0677. Artists of Yardley Members' gallery show and sale, "Giving Thanks." On view through November 26. Gallery hours are Tuesday to Sunday, 2 to 7 p.m.
Dynasty Arts, 20 Nassau Street, Unit F, 609-688-9388. "Last Dynasty," oil and watercolor, and limited edition prints. Artist and owner, Lu Zuogeng, combines Chinese brushwork with Western watercolor. Also, Chinese antique furniture of Ming and Qing dynasties. The gallery is open Tuesday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., and Sunday, noon to 5 p.m.
East Brunswick Public Library, Two Jean Walling Civic Center, 732-390-6767. www.ebpl.org. "Paper and More," an exhibit of paper mache forms by Ayelet Ben-Zvi, is featured in glass cases. Photographs by Anton Juttner are on display. The children's exhibit features origami. Through November 30.
Firehouse Gallery, 8 Walnut Street, Bordentown, 609-298-3742. www.firehousegallery.com. "Reaching for the Light," the last regular exhibition at the gallery. The show features the modern religious icons and church doorways of Christine Parson, photography of Daniel Schuette and Brad Evert, and original figure paintings of Eric Gibbons. On view through December 17.
Gallery 14, 14 Mercer Street, Hopewell, 609-333-8511. www.photosgallery14.com. "Remains of the Ancient West, an exhibit by photographer Marilyn Canning, and "Silver Dollars & Other Places," a photographic and painting exhibit by Rhoda
Kassof-Isaac. On view through December 18. Gallery hours are Saturday and Sunday, noon to 5 p.m.
Hopewell Frame Shop Gallery, 24 West Broad Street, 609-466-0817. "Branching Out," a solo exhibit by watercolor artist Beatrice Bork, whose work focuses primarily on animals and their habitat. Through December 24. Gallery hours are Tuesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; and Saturdays, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Montgomery Center for the Arts, 124 Montgomery Road, Skillman, 609-921-3272. www.montgomerycenterforthearts.org. "Books as Objects of Arts," an exhibit of unique works of art Jean Stufflebeem, Rand Huebsch, Liz Mitchell, Bonnie Berkowitz, Sam Forlenza, Randy Keenan, Patricia Malarcher, Barbara Mauriello, Pam Schienman, Robbin Ami Silverberg, Claire Simon, Patricia Toltl, Debra Weier, Fran Willner, and Cynthia Weiss. Through December 23. Tuesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Orpha's Coffee Shop, 1330 Route 206, Skillman, 609-430-2828. www.orphas.com. Exhibition of photos by Richard Baker. Through November 30.
Princeton Jewish Center, 435 Nassau Street, 609-921-0100. www.thejewishcenter.org. "The Paintings of Alla Pololsky," by Philadelphia painter born and raised in Kiev, Ukraine. Reception, Sunday, December 18, 3 to 5 p.m. On view through January 8. Monday to Thursday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Friday until 3 p.m.; and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Closed Saturdays.
Princeton Senior Resource Center, Suzanne Patterson Center, 45 Stockton Street (behind Borough Hall), 609-924-7108. Show and sale of fine arts paintings and prints featuring Princeton from the Williams Gallery. Benefit for the PSRC.
Featured artists include Michael Berger, Laury Egan, Margaret Kennard Johnson, Thomas George, Jerome Sutton, David Udovic, Charles Wells, and Robert Sakson. Through November 30. Gallery hours are weekdays, 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Closed
Thursday and Friday, November 24 and 25.
Triangle, 3175 Princeton Pike, Lawrenceville, 609-896-4100. www.triangleart.com. Ninth annual associate member juried exhibition of the Garden State Watercolor Society. Through December 3.
University Medical Center at Princeton, 253 Witherspoon Street, 609-497-4069. "Watercolor Paintings," an exhibit by area artist group Watercolorists Unlimited. On view through January 18. A portion of the proceeds from the show benefit the establishment of a new community Breast Health Center. 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily.
Chapin School, 4101 Princeton Pike, 609-924-7206. "Light Canvas and Wood, Recent Work" features an exhibition of paintings in oil, watercolor and pastel, and wood engravings by artist Whitney Cookman. Through December 15. Gallery is open by appointment during school hours.
College of New Jersey, Holman Hall, Ewing, 609-771-2368. www.publicleaders.tcnj.edu. "From Seed to Sheet," an exhibition from the Women's Studio Workshop. On view through December 7. Monday to Friday, noon to 3 p.m.; Thursday evenings, 7 to 9 p.m.; and Sundays, 1 to 3 p.m.
Cotsen Children's Library, Firestone Library, Princeton University, 609-258-2697. Exhibition "Wonderful Stories for Pictures: Hans Christian Andersen and His Illustrators." Through March 26.
Gallery at Mercer County College, Communications Center, 609-586-4800, ext. 3589. "The Human Face," includes photos of Helen Stummer of Metuchen, Diane Levell of Doylestown, and the late Lou Draper, former photography instructor at MCCC.
Through December 21. Mondays, 10 a.m. to noon; Tuesday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.; Wednesdays, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m.; Thursdays, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m.; and Fridays, 9 to 11 a.m.
Silva Gallery of Art, Pennington School, 112 West Delaware Avenue, Pennington, 609-737-8069. www.pennington.org. "Transcending the Veil," a solo show of works by Trenton artist Khalilah Sabree. On view through December 15. Gallery hours are Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.; Wednesday, 5 to 7 p.m.; Tuesday, noon to 4 p.m.; and Thursday, 3 to 5 p.m.
Princeton Day School, The Great Road, Princeton, 609-924-6700. www.pds.org. "Fay Sciarra: Original Paintings on Canvas, Glass, and Found Objects," a solo show of colorful paintings by Fay Sciarra. Opening reception is Friday, December 2, 5 to 7 p.m. On view through December 16.
Princeton University Art Museum, 609-258-3788, www.PrincetonArtMuseum.org. Medieval, Renaissance, and Baroque galleries are open. "The Legacy of Homer: Four Centuries of Art from the Ecole Nationale Superieure des Beaux-Arts, Paris."
Through January 15. Reading from Homer by Princeton University professor emeritus Robert Fagles Tuesday, December 6, 5:30 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; and Sunday, 1 to 5 p.m. Tours are given on Saturdays at 2 p.m.