Portland Art Museum presents ‘Halcyon Days: The Camera in the Garden’

This weekend I had the pleasure of visiting the Portland Art Museum. Walking around the museum never fails to fill me with positive energy. On this particular occasion I stepped off the elevator, rounded the corner and came face-to-face with one of the most powerful exhibits I have ever experienced. Halcyon Days: The Camera in the Garden is a photography exhibit that captures unique moments through time.

I was paralyzed with awe the moment I walked in. The exhibit features photographs from the 1800s to the present day. Various photographers have reproduced the memories of lives that have come and gone through history. The exhibit began with mostly black-and-white photos and slowly progressed to color. I felt as though I were walking through time, catching microcosmic glimpses into the lives of random people.

The early works from the 20th and 21st centuries were captivating. My nose was practically touching the photographs’ protective glass as I reeled at our society’s progress. One piece that especially stood out to me was Wynn Bullock’s “Child in Forest, 1951.” Bullock is a critically acclaimed American photographer and has been categorized as one of the great master photographers of the 20th century.

This photograph of a young child lying naked in a forest struck me immediately. It was hauntingly beautiful. The way the photo suggests youth and spirit put me in an almost euphoric state of mind. I suppose it could be because I fancy controversial art, and to me this pushed a societal boundary in a classic, beautiful way.

Throughout the exhibit I sensed a recurring, omnipresent theme that affected each photograph. Although the photos range from black-and-white to popping color, span multiple decades and alternate between portrait and landscape orientation, “youth” was the word that kept appearing in my head. I loved the gorgeous springtime nature shots and I admired the universal reaffirmation of life. Every picture expressed a feeling of vigor and adolescence, and inspired me to love life just a little bit more. I left feeling entranced, completely absorbed by what I had seen.

As I walked down the stairs through the other galleries, I couldn’t help but think of the faces I had just met and abandoned. I felt a true connection to this exhibit, and I knew anyone else would too. Halcyon Days: The Camera in the Garden encapsulates love, life and youth. No one should miss this incredible opportunity to travel through time. You will unquestionably emerge feeling alive and exulted.

Halcyon Days: The Camera in the Garden runs through August 10. Visit www.portlandartmuseum.org for times and tour information.