The new wave

While Portland might not have the status of New York, Los Angeles or Chicago, we are experiencing a fresh wave of fine art photography, and one thing will remain ubiquitous in the Rose City’s photography scene-community. “Portland’s photographic community is a small but strong one.

While Portland might not have the status of New York, Los Angeles or Chicago, we are experiencing a fresh wave of fine art photography, and one thing will remain ubiquitous in the Rose City’s photography scene-community.

“Portland’s photographic community is a small but strong one. Everyone is very supportive of each others’ endeavors,” said Laura Moya, director of Photolucida.

New venues for photography are springing up in town, and many galleries are expanding into bigger and more prominent spaces.

Chris Bennett, founder of Newspace Center for Photography, extends his artistic vision beyond the studio, reaching out to the community to serve as a viable creative resource. Since 2002, Newspace has offered classes and workshops to the public. Making photography education more accessible is their primary goal.

“The fact that it’s open to anybody is very important. We are truly a community-based darkroom,” Bennett said.

Newspace is continually expanding its classes and envisions opening a second darkroom dedicated to students as part of their 2,400-square-foot expansion.

“We want to keep traditional black-and-white photography alive,” Bennett said. “As long as people still want to learn darkroom techniques, we’ll keep it going.” The new facility will also include digital imaging stations, where students can experiment with all the pixels and bytes they can handle.

Newspace Center officially became a nonprofit in October, so it is poised to receive grants and increased support for its innovative programs. Newspace relies on volunteers to keep the space running, and provides many people with a vital link to beginning a career in photography. Facilities such as a darkroom are a premium for people who have just finished school, and a community darkroom helps people continue to make photographs in the real world.

When asked about how the space has changed over the past four years, Bennett enthusiastically replied, “There is no going back!” Originally, they were showing all kinds of artwork in the gallery, but two years ago decided to dedicate themselves to photography.

Newspace serves as a place for photographers in all stages of their careers to network with other people in the community. In the future, they plan to attract more national artists to exhibit in their gallery, bringing their ratio of local/national artists closer to 50-50. Their expansion will create a spacious gallery to showcase more national photographers.

The biennial event Photolucida brings curators, gallery owners and publishers to Portland for portfolio-review sessions with photographers from all over the country. Photolucida also sponsors an annual juried exhibition, Critical Mass, which showcases local photographers alongside national talents. The conference will take place this April and will be a prime opportunity for aspiring photographers to gain a better perspective on fine art photography. Photolucida is gaining momentum and is now part of “The Festival of Light,” a partnership among more than 20 photography festivals around the world. Director Laura Moya invites students to get involved with the festival as volunteers who can help make everything possible.

The most recent addition to the photography scene in Portland is Quality Pictures Contemporary Art (QPCA), run by the charismatic Erik Schneider. Schneider was an accountant and founder of Context Art Projects in Atlanta before moving to Portland in August 2006. QPCA opened its doors in December with the dynamite show P.O.W. (Pictures of Women). This show set the stage for a nationally minded gallery and was full of blue-chip artists, including Cindy Sherman, Kara Walker and Nikki S. Lee.

QPCA is committed to showing photographs, but will also feature artwork in other media for special exhibits and group shows.

“Artists are really all that matters. I believe in the artists, and I never waver,” said Schneider. He has picked up works by renowned photographers such as William Eggleston, Edward Burtynsky and Philip di Corca. “I could have opened a gallery in New York, Los Angeles or Chicago, but I wanted to be in a town with a sense of community,” he said.

Programming at QPCA for 2007 will include video screenings in the back of the gallery, installations in the entry hallway and some unconventional group shows. In February, Elizabeth Healy will curate a group show, Picture Ping-Pong, based on a MySpace site where she has collected a number of eclectic artists who relate to her style of work.

Noteworthy events in the photography scene include a move by stalwart Blue Sky Gallery into the old Daisy Kingdom building, soon to be known as the DeSoto Building, in the Northwest Park Blocks. The building is being designed by SERA architects, and will host the Contemporary Crafts Museum’s new gallery opening this spring on the ground floor. Jump-starting Portland’s east side, Laura Russell is opening a new gallery, called 23 Sandy, with a special emphasis on contemporary photography with themes of social justice.

Experience the photo buzz for yourself at a number of unique exhibits around town at the local universities and galleries. From Iraq to construction to Tokyo, there is something for everyone in the world of Portland photography.

Portland photography galleries

Quality Pictures Contemporary Art916 N.W. Hoyt St.

Newspace Center for Photography1632 S.E. 10th St.

Portland Under ConstructionPhotographs by Patrick Stearns

Artist’s Talk: Feb. 1, 12 p.m.Art gym at Marylhurst College

Tokyo, 2006Photographs by Rick Regan

Closing reception, Feb. 1, 12-1 p.m.Pacific University, Forest GroveThrough Feb. 5

Unembedded: Four Independent Photojournalists on the War in Iraq

Hoffman GalleryLewis and Clark CollegeThrough March 27

Photographs by Dennis Chamberlin and Michal Chelbin

Blue Sky Gallery1231 N.W. Hoyt St.

Street MuggingsPhotographs by Bobby AbrahamsonOpening reception: Jan. 27, 6-9 p.m.Camerawork GalleryLegacy Good Samaritan Hospital2255 N.W. Northrup St.

23 Sandy Gallery

623 N.E. 23rd Ave.Contemporary PhotographyOpening April 6