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Click Happy

An invitational photography exhibit offers camaraderie among local stars and up-and-comers.

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When the director of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts agrees to exhibit his work at your photography show, you know you're in select company.

As one in a series of biannual photography exhibits at Glave Kocen Gallery, "Click III:From the Mountains to the Sea" combines the work of seven seasoned veterans with nine upstarts exhibiting for the first time. Geared toward fans of photography, the exhibit is unique for its signs, which provide details about the types of cameras used, along with an artist statement and a curator statement for each photographer.

Gallery owner B.J. Kocen and Style Weekly photographer Scott Elmquist look for original work that not only will sell but also transcend the clichéd nature of postcard imagery. The curating team hopes to create more acceptance of the medium as fine art and foster a sense of community among local photographers.

"The process is hard to describe because a lot of selection is by the gut," Elmquist says. "B.J. and I discuss the merits of each selection and then make the call. If we like what we see, the work is in."

For example, Elmquist is proud to be showing the work of highly respected local artist Tom Chambers, whose surreal photo illustrations are internationally known.

Another photographer who made the cut with two atmospheric black-and-white pieces is Alex Nyerges, director of the Virginia Museum, who jokes that his affinity for taking pictures comes honestly because he was born in Rochester, N.Y., home of Eastman Kodak Co.

"When you're born you can't leave the hospital without buying a camera," Nyerges says, adding that he's been taking photographs his whole life but only became serious about them a decade ago, when digital cameras allowed him more time to pursue his passion.

"The camera captures an infinitesimal glimpse of a world we sometimes walk and drive right past," Nyerges says. As a runner, he's learned to always wear a backpack with his camera so that anything that captures his fancy can be recorded.

Nyerges says his wife encouraged him to begin showing locally about five years ago and he's shown at Glave Kocen and 12 12 Gallery. The well-known arts director says he isn't worried about putting himself out there as an artist.

"I separate what I do as a profession from the creative work I do," he says. "And everything about this exhibit is first-rate." He adds that a lot of work he does is indefinable and some of it is landscape, "but it's really all about exploration of the world with shadow, light and form. Finding patterns. I'm really after depicting beauty."

Massachusetts artist Susan Mikula, the partner of MSNBC host Rachel Maddow, works with old Polaroid cameras or pinhole cameras using Polaroid film. Unlike Nyerges, she never takes a photograph that she hasn't thoroughly researched and planned, a factor of having a limited supply of a film that's no longer manufactured.

The first consideration after discovering a place that speaks to her is to pick which of her many vintage cameras to use, she says, followed by researching the location's light, the time of day and time of year.

"Photography is light and capturing light is about as romantic as it gets," Mikula says. "I want a picture of my photograph in my head before I go do it. I don't want to be surprised. So that leads me to do so much front work."

With no apologies, the curators acknowledge the goal of the show is to sell work, usually achievable when most of the works are in the $250 to $1,000 range. Because most of the people showing are working photographers who grind it out every day in a competitive business, a sale can be both meaningful and motivating. Another component is getting the public and photography community excited about the collection.

With this year's theme, from the mountains to the sea, Kocen aimed for a good flow in the gallery to avoid pulling the viewer 180 degrees from photograph to photograph. He thinks it makes the show more accessible, disarming the viewer and encouraging the photographers to leave photo books in the gallery to provide more for patrons to chew on.

"The show is engaging for anyone who loves photography or creates it, from amateurs to intention-oriented photographers," Kocen says. "They get in here looking around and start talking to each other about gear or asking how did you get that shot. There's a lot of camaraderie you don't always see." S

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"Click III: From the Mountains to the Sea" opens with a reception Feb. 7 from 6-9 p.m. at Glave Kocen Gallery, 1620 W. Main St. For information call 358-1990 or visit glavekocengallery.com.

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