Not crappy at all
by Sally Wright Day
From the June, 2015 issue
In the photo exhibit Cheap Shots III: Blurred, Not Shaken--a clever take on James Bond's shaken, not stirred martini--the Ann Arbor Area Crappy Camera Club pays homage to an older, slower, more artistic photography than today's ultra-controlled digital realm. But while the fifty-three-year-old Bond film series keeps evolving with new storylines, A3C3 members are staying focused on aged methods and equipment and celebrating the dashing, handsome results they get with crappy cameras.
Crappy here is not an insult. It means toy and pinhole cameras, ones that use that ancient stuff called film or are simple enough to produce blurring and happy accidents. Serendipity is what A3C3 club manager Mark O'Brien calls it, such as when something unseen through the lens ends up in the photo as a surprising beauty mark.
Many of the show's twenty-eight mostly black-and-white photos actually are blurry, a function mostly of the lenses' simplicity. The blurs lend an ethereal feel to some, old-timeyness to others and slasher-movie sensations to a couple. In the ethereal category is William Bresler's "La Jolla Beach," depicting boulders surrounded by a swirling glow of either sand or water. Timothy Wrobel's "Stalked" is starkly opposite in tone: sharp focus in its center on dried, crooked cornstalks and blurred on its edges. It's so spooky I half expected a dagger to rip through the frame.
Contrast is another aspect left more to chance with crappy cameras. Here also are opposites. O'Brien's "Cranbrook Steps" has a striking polarity with its light concrete stairs rising to a dark lion statue silhouetted by a bright sky, while his "Umbrella, Kerrytown" is a study in subtle blacks and patterns on the umbrella's underside.
And then there's my fave method, me being a fifty-seven-year-old fossil: double exposures. A Paris lover, I gravitated straight to Scott Pakulski's "Arc de Triomphe." More than one Arc? I'm there.
Amid many stunning works are a few funny ones. "Spring Break" by Geoff Foster has two chairs in the woods, surrounded by snow. And
among George Lavoie's splendid pieces is a selfie with his granddaughter. She's sporting a superb kid face you gotta see.
I did wish--at first--for a roomier, brighter venue than the dark hallways off the Argus Museum atrium. But it's actually perfect. The tight space makes it intimate. And where better to show these photos than in the museum that showcases Ann Arbor's proud past as a world leader in camera design and manufacturing? (Be sure to explore that history. Fascinating stuff.)
Two more wonderful things about this exhibit: Flyers sprinkled among the photos explain crappiness just enough to heighten your appreciation. And there's free parking right outside!
Blurred is on tap until June 30 at the Argus, 525 W. William, and A3C3 is on Facebook and Flickr.
[Originally published in June, 2015.]
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