From a vermillion Lijiang landscape performance space in Yunan, China, to intensely alive residents of Havana to unexpected as well as familiar scenes and moments close to home, images in the Valley Arts VT Photo Show are as diverse as the dozens of photographers represented in it.
The Mad River Valley’s 29th annual Photo Show opens this weekend and runs to Oct. 7. This longstanding exhibition is entering a new era. After 28 years in the historic Round Barn in Waitsfield, the show has moved to another historic Waitsfield barn, the Red Barn at Lareau Farm and American Flatbread.
The Photo Show features over 200 images by 70 amateur and professional photographers working in black and white and color, in film and digital photography. It continues its long tradition as an unjuried show, open to all interested photographers, giving participants the freedom to select three pieces of work that they wish to present.
“It’s a joyful show, it’s put together with appreciation and joy — and sweat. I can’t say it’s a lighthearted show because we get some serious work, but there’s joy in the medium. It’s a wonderful cauldron of ideas,” explains Pam Lerner, of Warren, who has organized the Photo Show for all 29 years.
“Every year it brings photographers together and gives people an opportunity to see their work in a leisurely way in a beautiful setting,” Lerner said.
Lerner launched the Photo Show nearly three decades ago when she served on the board of directors of the Green Mountain Cultural Center, then a fairly new organization, presenting arts events at the Round Barn. GMCC held a juried art show with a focus on paintings. Lerner, artistic director for that event, recognized that there was great interest by photographers and audiences for a photography show. With Mad River Valley photographer Pat Dockendorf, Lerner leaped in.
“Pat did photographer side, I did other organizing. We put out word for an open show, and we got everything from snapshots to wonderful animals and landscapes. Photographers were so excited and the public loved it,” Lerner said.
From an initial long weekend, the Photo Show grew to become a month long staple of the Vermont Festival of the Arts.
In one of the early years, Lerner noted, “We put in a size minimum and the quality of the work exploded.”
Dockendorf moved away some years ago, and Julie Parker, also a photographer, joined Lerner in organizing the annual event.
Recently, with the GMCC in transition, opportunity arose to shift the Photo Show to Valley Arts. Valley Arts presents exhibitions including the Green Mountain Watercolor Exhibition, workshops and other events and organizes the Vermont Festival of the Arts, the Barns and Bridges Festival this weekend, and more.
With Valley Arts, Photo Show moves into the Red Barn Gallery, a beautifully renovated 1895 high drive barn on Route 100 at the home of American Flatbread. The texture and grain of its barn board walls combined with spacious gallery space and topnotch lighting make it a superb exhibition venue. There’s also a great synergy with American Flatbread. Diners can take in the art before or after meals — exhibition hours include late afternoons and evenings.
Even with the move, some things have and will stay the same with the Photo Show.
“This is not a juried show. When you have a jury, the show takes on the jurors’ personality and preferences. Our freewheeling style makes it much more interesting,” Lerner said.
Neither is the show restricted to photographers from specific regions.
“We have no boundaries. People can come from anywhere,” Lerner said, noting that they have had international entries. “They just have to arrive on drop off day and ready to go on the wall.”
Richard Cofrancesco, of Springfield, read about the show more than a dozen years ago, visited the Round Barn, decided to enter, and has been in it every year since. This year his work includes “Tree of Life,” taken on the coast in Washington state, and “Sheep in a Row” of a curious flock at a farm near his home. Printed on aluminum, a glass-like quality to the images and the clean unframed edges draw viewers into the roots and branches and flock.
Dennis Curran, of Curran Photography in Waitsfield, has been photographing outdoor adventures, mountain sports, landscapes and more around the northeast for decades. Curran’s dramatic large format landscapes, with ridgeline and ski trails, “Hay Bales and Ski Tracks” and “Big Three,” are printed on stretched canvas.
David Garten, of David Garten Photography in Waitsfield, has been photographing Cuba, especially Havana, for more than 30 years. The rhythm and energy of the culture and people of this neighboring country infuse his work.
“I always have an eye out for something to photograph,” said Susan Lee, of Waitsfield, whose images are from China and Milan.
In Lee’s “Lijiang Impression,” performers dot the massive topographic stage in China, with Jade Dragon Snow Mountain soaring above them. “Old and New” takes viewers to a Milan cathedral rooftop.