Saturday, June 6, the 14th Street Gallery in Plano, Texas, is holding a reception for Viewing the World Through a Toy Camera by Chip VanPelt and Backroads by Joe Ing. Mr. VanPelt is exhibiting photographs from his travels in Europe and around Texas. Mr. Ing is displaying photographs of country scenes from rural America. Both exhibits are well worth a visit to the 14th Street Gallery.
Viewing the World Through a Toy Camera
Mr. VanPelt uses a Holga camera for his photography. For those who don’t know, a Holga is a plastic camera that uses medium format film. Holgas are referred to as toy cameras because they are cheaply made in China and feel like something you would give to a child as a first camera. Photographers, however, are not fooled by the lack of quality. They have embraced the Holga and all it quarks to product stunning images. The most notable quark is the less than perfect lens which produces an inconsistently blurry image with a sweet spot of clarity. Holgas are also prone to light leaks, vinyetting and minor distortion. All of these effects could be achieved in Photoshop, but the Holga does them naturally.
Now that you understand Holga, we can discuss the dreamy quality of Mr. VanPelts photographs. Toy Camera exhibits monuments, statues, people, the Alamo and Big Tex. The images, probably shot with black-and-white film (You do remember film, don’t you?), are produced in Sepia tone, which gives the subjects warmth.
A typical Holga shot is VanPelt’s Alamo. The photograph has heavy vinyetting around the corners, so much that it resembles an old TV screen. The image is angled nicely to show mostly the top of the Alamo and it is void of people, which is hard to do with all the tourists.
My favorite photograph was Street Tango. It shows a couple dancing on a portable dance floor in the middle of a crowd. The angle is such that we are part of the crowd watching the dancers over the shoulder of another tourist. The photo has nice contrast and a very rich feeling.
I don’t know what type of camera Mr. Ing uses, but I can say with great certainty that it was not a Holga. His photographs a vivid, crisp and quark free. And they are also rustic and comfortable at the same time. Mr. Ing’s subjects include old general stores, weathered barns, roads, fields and sky; lots and lots of sky. The colors are vivid and refreshing.
Early Moonrise has the quality of a silkscreen print. The photograph shows a sliver of land with a tiny tree and a dot of a moon. The rest is all sky that looks masterfully mixed by a printmaker starting with pink and ranging to bark blue.
Mr. Ing has a good eye for shapes and textures. Details include wire, nails, chipped paint, boarded up windows and roof tin.
My favorite photograph was After Storm. The photograph is again mostly sky with a sliver of land at the bottom and a rainbow streaking diagonally through the middle. You can’t plan for a image like After Storm. You just have to be in the right place at the right time. But you do have to be a good photographer to get the image right and that is what Mr. Ing did … beautifully.
14th Street Gallery
The 14th Street Gallery is located in downtown Plano, Texas. The gallery is in a wonderfully, remodeled, light brick building just a little past the new downtown development. Parking is available behind the building.
14th Street Gallery is owned and operated by Gaby Pruitt, one of the nicest gallery owners I have ever met. Ms. Pruitt kindly gave me a tour of the exhibits and told me all about the other services she offers. 14th Street Gallery does custom printing, matting, framing, scanning, restoration and dry-mounting. Ms. Pruitt can print images on high quality materials. Examples of her printing are also on display. Check them out too.